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8658  Class.,.. 









Sometime  University  Fellow  in  Administration 










The  importance  of  the  pension  question 9 

Plan  of  treatment 10 

Definitions 10 



Colonial  pension  laws 12 

First  national  pension  law 14 

Washington's  views  with  regard  to  pensions 15 

First  provision  for  widows  and  orphans 16 

Half  pay  for  life  promised  to  Revolutionary  officers 17 

Opposition  to  half  pay  in  the  States 18 

Discontent  in  the  army 18 

Commutation  of  the  half  pay 19 

Violent  agitation  against  commutation 20 

Settlement  of  the  half  pay  claims 21 

Further  invalid  pension  legislation 22 

Purpose  of  pension  legislation  prior  to  1789 23 



Centralization  of  pension  administration 25 

Pressure  of  applicants  for  pensions 26 

Invalid  pension  law  of  March  23,  1 792 26 

Circuit  Courts  of  United  States  to  examine  applicants 27 

Conflict  between  United  States  judges  and  Congress 27 

Act  of  February  28,  1 793 29 

Important  invalid  pension  act  of  April  10,  1806 31 

Increase  act  of  April  24,  1816 33 

Limited  service  pension  act  of  March  18,  1818 33 




Arguments  of  the  opposition  to  this  law 34 

Abuses  of  the  act  of  1818 37 

Remedial  legislation  of  May  I,  1820 38 

Operation  of  the  acts  of  1818  and  1820 39 

Act  of  1828,  granting  full  pay  for  life 40 

Hayne's  speech  on  the  pension  system 41 

Pension  expenditures  and  a  protective  tariff 42 

Alleged  discrimination  against  the  South 43 

Service  pension  act  of  June  7,  1832 44 

Frauds  under  the  act  of  1832 45 

Distribution  of  pension  expenditures  up  to  1834 48 

Act  of  July  4,  1836,  providing  for  widows 49 

Final  provisions  for  Revolutionary  widows 49 

Results  of  Revolutionary  pension  legislation 51 



1.  Provisions  for  the  Regular  Army  and  Volunteers 

2.  Navy  and  Privateer  Pension  Funds 

Establishment  of  the  navy  pension  fund 55 

History  and  statistics  of  the  fund 56 

Renewal  of  the  fund  during  the  Civil  War 57 

Present  condition  of  the  navy  pension  fund 59 

Establishment  and  history  of  the  privateer  pension  fund 60 

3.  War  of  1812  Pensions 

Service  pension  act  of  February  14,  1871 6l 

More  liberal  act  of  March  9,  1878 62 

Results  of  War  of  1812  pension  acts 64 

4.  Indian  War  Pensions 

Service  pension  act  of  July  27,  1892 64 

5.  Mexican  War  Pensions 

Limited  service  pension  act  of  January  29,  1887 66 

Results  of  the  Mexican  War  pension  acts 68 



Pension  system  at  the  beginning  of  the  war 70 

Policy  toward  disloyal  pensioners 71 

Urgent  need  of  additional  legislation 72 

Fundamental  invalid  pension  act  of  July  14,  1862 73 

Special  rating  by  law  for  specific  disabilities 76 

Increase  acts  of  1866 , . , ,..,...,  „ . . , ,..,,.,., , 78 

225]  TABLE  OF  CONTENTS  vjj 


Act  of  July  27,  1868 80 

The  average  pension  in  1871 84 

Codification  of  the  pension  laws 85 

Decrease  in  pension  expenditures 86 



Early  provisions  regarding  arrears 88 

Increased  activity  of  pension  attorneys = 90 

The  Arrears  Act  in  Congress 91 

Agitation  and  petitions  for  its  passage 94 

Its  provisions 95 

Stimulus  afforded  to  fraudulent  claims 96 

Recognition  of  enormous  cost  of  the  act 98 

Amendment  and  limitation  of  March  3,  1879 99 

Extraordinary  number  of  claims  presented  loo 

Operation  of  the  Arrears  Act 102 

Increase  act  of  March  19,  1886 105 

Partial  repeal  of  limitation  on  arrears 105 

Harmful  operation  of  proviso  of  June  7,  1888 106 



President  Cleveland's  message  of  1886 108 

His  veto  of  the  Dependent  Pension  Bill 109 

Continued  agitation  for  service  pensions 112 

Passage  of  the  act  of  June  27,  1890 1 14 

Provisions  of  that  law 114 

Statistics  of  its  operation 115 

The  act  of  1890  a  bad  law 117 

Tabular  statements  of  its  cost  and  of  claims  filed 118 

Pensions  granted  to  army  nurses 119 

A  pension  not  a  vested  legal  right 119 

Minimum  invalid  rate  of  six  dollars  per  month 119 

Arrears  under  the  act  of  June  27,  1890 120 

Act  of  March  3,  1899 120 

Existing  laws  apply  to  the  War  with  Spain 121 

Special  Pension  Legislation 

Number  of  special  acts  passed 122 

Methods  of  passage  122 

President  Cleveland's  vetoes 123 

Possible  improvement  in  methods * , . . . .  123 

viii  TABLE  OF  CONTENTS  [226 



1.  The  Trend  of  Pension  Legislation 

Sketch  of  the  development  of  our  pension  system 1 25 

2.  Our  Present  System  of  Laws 

Its  twofold  character 126 

3.  Causes  and  Evils  of  Unwise  Legislation 

Surplus  in  the  Treasury 127 

Activity  of  attorneys  and  claim  agents 128 

Organization  and  political  activity  of  veterans 128 

Evil  results  of  improper  laws 129 

4.  A  Proper  System  of  Laws 

Service  pension  laws  not  desirable 130 

An  invalid  pension  system  accords  with  good  public  policy 131 

Pensions  for  widows  and  dependent  relatives 131 

Reforms  in  administration  needed 132 



THE  maintenance  of  the  military  pension  system  of  the 
United  States  has  cost  since  the  close  of  the  Civil  War 
about  two  and  a  [half  billions  of  dollars.  At  the  present 
time,  nearly  one  million  names  are  borne  upon  the  national 
pension  rolls,  or,  approximately,  one  in  seventy-five  of  the 
population  of  the  country.  The  annual  expenditure  for 
pensions  is,  roughly  speaking,  one  hundred  and  forty  mil- 
lion dollars,  an  amount  about  equal  to  our  total  annual 
receipts  from  internal  revenue  under  conditions  such  as  pre- 
vailed from  1894  to  1897.  These  statements  suffice  to  indi- 
cate the  importance  of  what  is  commonly  known  as  the 
"  pension  question,"  and  to  make  it  clear  that  the  subject  of 
pension  legislation  and  administration  is  worthy  of  careful 
study.  The  field  is  now  an  open  one  in  which  scarcely  any 
serious  work  has  been  done. 

This  monograph  aims  to  occupy  part  of  the  open  field  by 
giving  a  systematic  account  of  national  military  pension  leg- 
islation in  the  United  States  from  1776  to  the  present  time. 
The  main  features  of  the  most  important  laws  are  given,  to- 
gether with  the  circumstances  attending  their  passage  and 
the  results  of  their  operation.  While  any  adequate  treat- 
ment of  the  administration  of  the  pension  laws  under  pres- 
ent complex  conditions  would  require  an  independent  mono- 
graph, legislation  and  administration  are  so  intimately 
connected  that  the  latter  necessarily  receives  considerable 

After  a  review  of  pension  legislation  prior  to  the  inaugu- 
227]  9 


ration  of  the  Federal  Government  in  1789,  the  writer's  plan 
contemplates  a  topical  treatment  of  laws.  The  enactments 
connected  with  each  important  war  are  grouped  together, 
and  an  attempt  is  made  to  show  the  development  of  legisla- 
tion and  the  introduction  of  new  principles.  Statistical  in- 
formation with  regard  to  the  admission  of  claims  and  ex- 
penditures under  the  various  laws  is  compiled  from  the 
Government  reports.  It  may  be  added  that  this  essay  does 
\  not  include  a  consideration  of  retirement  pensions,  civil  pen- 
sions or  of  State  pension  laws.  An  investigation  of  the  lat- 
ter topic  would  be  of  interest  as  showing  the  provision  made 
by  some  of  the  Southern  States  for  the  ex-soldiers  of  the 
Confederate  army. 

A  military  pension  may  be  defined  as  a  regular  allowance 
made  by  a  government  to  one  who  has  been  in  its  military 
service,  or  to  his  widow  or  dependent  relatives.  Since  a 
state  has  an  absolute  right  to  require  the  services  of  its  citi- 
zens in  time  of  war,  the  payment  of  a  pension  is  commonly 
4  regarded  not  as  the  discharge  of  a  debt  due  the  ex-soldier, 
but  as  a  gratuity.  Pensions  for  soldiers  may  be  divided  into 
\  invalid  or  disability  pensions  and  service  pensions.  An  in- 
valid or  disability  pension  is  one  granted  to  a  soldier  on  ac- 
count of  wounds  or  injuries  received  or  disease  contracted  in 
the  military  service.  A  service  pension  is  granted  to  one 
who  has  been  in  the  military  service  for  a  specified  length  of 
time,  without  regard  to  the  question  whether  or  not  he  has 
incurred  injury  or  disability  in  that  service. 

Service  pensions  maybe  divided  \\\\.Q  pure  service  pensions 
and  limited  service  pensions.  The  former  are  granted  for  a 
specified  length  of  military  service  without  regard  to  any 
other  consideration.  Limited  service  pension  laws  require  a 
specified  length  of  service  and  also  some  other  qualification 
or  qualifications,  such  as  indigence,  inability  to  perform 
manual  labor,  inability  to  earn  a  support,  disability  in  some 


degree  incurred  since  the  termination  of  the  war,  or  the 
attainment  of  a  certain  age. 

Pensions  to  widows  are  sometimes  conditioned  on  the  date 
of  marriage,  whether  before,  during  or  after  the  soldier's  ser- 
vice, or  before  or  after  a  specified  date.  Widows  generally 
forfeit  their  pensions  by  a  re-marriage.  Another  matter  fre- 
quently considered  in  the  pensioning  of  widows  and  depend- 
ent relatives  is  the  cause  of  the  soldier's  death,  whether  in 
battle,  in  service,  or,  after  discharge,  as  the  result  of  injuries 
received  or  disease  contracted  in  service.  The  more  liberal 
laws  grant  pensions  to  widows  and  dependent  relatives  on 
mere  proof  of  death,  without  regard  to  the  cause. 

Before  passing  to  the  consideration  of  legislation,  the 
writer  wishes  to  acknowledge  his  indebtedness  to  Professor 
J.  W.  Jenks,  of  Cornell  University,  at  whose  suggestion  he 
undertook  this  study,  and  to  Professors  H.  R.  Seager,  of  the 
University  of  Pennsylvania,  and  F.  J.  Goodnow,  of  Columbia 
University,  for  encouragement  and  advice  during  the  progress 
of  the  work.  The  Pension  Bureau  has  also  kindly  responded 
to  requests  for  its  official  publications. 

The  pension  laws  abound  with  technicalities  which  can  be 
of  but  little  interest  to  the  general  reader.  In  so  far  as  pos- 
sible, an  effort  has  been  made  to  eliminate  these  confusing 
details  where  they  are  not  necessary  to  the  purpose  of  the 
essay,  which  is  the  presentation  in  a  broad,  systematic  and 
intelligible  way  of  the  development  in  legisjation  of  our 
present  pension  system. 



THE  inauguration  of  a  military  pension  system  by  the 
government  of  the  United  States  followed  closely  upon  the 
Declaration  of  Independence,  the  first  national  pension  law 
bearing  date  of  August  26,  1/76.  Such  a  system  was  in 
full  accord  with  over  a  century  of  colonial  legislation  and 
practice.  Early  in  their  history,  many  of  the  English  colo- 
nies in  America  had  provided  for  the  relief  and  maintenance 
of  wounded  and  maimed  soldiers.  By  way  of  introduction 
^to  national  pension  legislation,  some  notice  of  early  colonial 
laws  is  instructive. 

In  1636  the  Pilgrims  at  Plymouth  enacted  in  their  Court 
\  that  any  man  who  should  be  sent  forth  as  a  soldier  and  re- 
turn maimed  should  be  maintained  competently  by  the  col- 
ony during  his  life.1  This  was  probably  the  first  pension 
law  passed  in  America.  In  1676  and  the  years  immediately 
thereafter,  a  standing  committee  of  the  General  Court  of 
Massachusetts  Bay  held  regular  meetings  in  "  Boston  toune 
house  "  to  hear  the  applications  of  wounded  soldiers  for  re- 
lief.2 After  the  union  of  Massachusetts  Bay  and  Plymouth 
under  the  charter  of  1691,  the  province  continued  to  make 
provisions  for  the  relief  of  disabled  soldiers  out  of  the  pub- 
lic treasury.3 

As  early  as  1644,  the  Virginia  Assembly  passed  a  disabil- 

1  Plymouth  Colony  Records,  xi,  Laws,  106. 

2  Records  oj  Colony  of  Massachusetts  Bay,  v,  80,  227. 
8  Acts  and  Resolves  of  Province  of  Mass.  Bay,  \,  135. 

12  [230 

231]  PRIOR  TO  1789  13 

ity  pension  law,  and  later  provided  for  the  relief  of  the  indi-  ^X 
gent  families  of  the  colony's  soldiers  who  should  be  slain.1 
We  find  similar  acts  among  the  colonial  statutes  of  Mary- 
land2 and  New  York3  during  the  latter  part  of  the  seven- 
teenth century.  The  Maryland  militia  law  of  November, 
1678,  promised  yearly  pensions  not  only  to  soldiers  who 
should  be  disabled,  but  also  to  the  widows  and  orphan  chil- 
daen  of  those  who  should  lose  their  lives  in  the  military  ser- 
vice. "Competent"  pensions  were  to  be  yearly  rated  and 
allowed  out  of  the  public  levy  by  the  General  Assembly. 
Petitioners  for  pensions  were  required  to  show  by  certificates 
from  the  commissioners  of  the  respective  county  courts  that 
they  were  proper  objects  of  charity. 

In  1718  Rhode  Island  enacted  a  remarkably  comprehen-  ^ 
sive  pension  law.4  It  provided  that  every  officer,  soldier  or 
sailor,  employed  in  the  colony's  service,  who  should  be  dis- 
abled by  loss  of  limb  or  otherwise  from  getting  a  livelihood 
for  himself  and  family  or  other  dependent  relatives,  should 
have  his  wounds  carefully  looked  after  and  healed  at  the 
colony's  charge,  and  should  have  an  annual  pension  allowed 
him  out  of  the  general  treasury,  sufficient  for  the  mainte- 
nance of  himself  and  family,  or  other  dependent  relatives. 
The  law  further  provided  that  if  any  person,  who  had  the 
charge  of  maintaining  a  wife,  children,  parents  or  other  rela- 
tives, should  be  slain  in  the  colony's  military  service,  these 
relatives  should  be  maintained,  while  unable  to  provide  for 
themselves,  by  such  yearly  pension  from  the  treasury  of  the 
colony  as  the  General  Assembly  might  deem  sufficient. 
The  town  councils  were  charged  with  the  care  and  oversight 
of  those  persons  entitled  to  pensions  who  resided  in  their 

1  Hening's  Statutes  at  Large,  i,  287;  ii,  331,  347,  440. 

1  Archives  of  Md.t  Proceedings  of  Assembly,  1637-8-1664,  408,  436,  and  also, 
Ibid.,  1678-1683,  58. 

1  Colonial  Laws  of  N.  F.,  i,  234.  *  Acts  and  Laws  of  R.  /.,  74. 


respective  towns.  Each  council  was,  from  time  to  time,  to 
receive  the  pensions,  and  therewith  to  supply  the  benefi- 
ciaries as  they  should  stand  in  need. 

This  notice  of  early  colonial  laws  makes  it  clear  that  pen- 
sion provisions  for  disabled  soldiers  are  of  almost  as  long 
standing  in  this  country  as  English  settlement.  The  simple 
provision  made  by  the  Pilgrims  in  1636  is  as  truly  a  disabil- 
ity pension  act  as  the  more  elaborate  laws  of  later  times. 
Aiming  to  secure  enlistments  in  military  expeditions  against 
the  Indians,  the  colonies  promised  to  care  for  those  who 
should  be  disabled  and  be  left  without  means  of  obtaining  a 
livelihood,  and  also  to  aid  the  indigent  families  of  those  who 
should  fall  in  the  conflict.  So  pension  provisions  came  to 
be  commonly  included  in  acts  organizing  the  militia  or 
levying  soldiers  for  some  particular  military  enterprise. 
Rates  were  not  specifically  fixed  in  these  laws,  that  matter 
and  other  details  being  dealt  with  in  the  process  of  adminis- 
tration. It  is  scarcely  possible  to  ascertain  the  amount  of 
relief  afforded,  though  sundry  entries  of  pension  payments 
in  colonial  records  show  that  the  legislation  must  have  had 
considerable  effect. 

With  regard  to  pensions,  as  in  other  respects,  it  was  natu- 
ral that  colonial  experience  and  precedent  should  have  a 
marked  influence  on  the  action  of  the  colonies  at  the  out- 
break of  the  Revolutionary  troubles,  and  that  their  new  na- 
tional government  should  inaugurate  a  military  pension  sys- 
tem. Nor  during  the  Revolution  did  the  States  rely  entirely 
on  Congress  to  take  the  initiative  in  granting  pensions. 
Some  of  them,  notably  Virginia  and  Pennsylvania,  inde- 
pendently promised  liberal  allowances  to  their  disabled  sol- 

The  first  national  pension  law,  that  of  August  26,  1776, 

1  Hening's  Statutes  at  Large,  ix,  14,  91, 456,  566;  x,  25.  Also  Laws  of  Penna., 
i,  488-489. 

233]  PRIOR  TO  1789  !5 

promised  half  pay  for  life  or  during  disability  to  every  offi- 
cer, soldier  or  sailor  losing  a  limb  in  any  engagement,  or  be- 
ing so  disabled  in  the  service  of  the  United  States  as  to  ren- 
der him  incapable  of  earning  a  livelihood.1  Proportionate 
relief  was  promised  to  such  as  were  only  partially  disabled 
from  getting  a  livelihood.  It  was  recommended  to  the 
States  to  appoint  proper  officers  for  the  execution  of  the 
law,  and  the  several  legislatures  were  requested  to  cause  the 
payment  on  account  of  the  United  States  of  such  half  pay 
and  other  allowances  as  should  be  adjudged  due  to  the  sol- 
diers from  their  respective  States. 

This  early  national  law  agreed  in  principle  with  the  colo- 
nial disability  provisions  which  we  have  already  considered. 
It  aimed  to  encourage  enlistment  in  the  Revolutionary  Y 
army.2  The  Continental  Congress  was  without  money  or 
real  executive  power,  and  was  hence  obliged  to  entrust  the 
execution  of  the  act  to  the  States.  Consequently,  it  was 
just  as  effective  as  they  chose  to  make  it. 

Washington  was  a  strong  advocate  of  a  "  half  pay  and  pen- 
sionary establishment."  On  January  28,  1778,  during  the 
hard  winter  at  Valley  Forge,  he  sent  to  Congress  a  gloomy 
account  of  the  condition  of  his  command.3  He  said  that, 
on  the  part  of  the  officers,  there  were  frequent  resignations, 
and  more  frequent  importunities  for  permission  to  resign, 
and,  in  the  ranks,  "  apathy,  inattention  and  neglect  of  duty." 
To  reanimate  the  languishing  zeal  of  the  officers,  he  urged 
upon  Congress  a  provision  for  half  pay  and  pensions.  "This 
would  not  only  dispel  the  apprehension  of  personal  distress, 
(at)  the  termination  of  the  war,  from  having  thrown  them- 

1  Journals  of  Congress,  i,  454-455.  See  also,  in  this  connection,  Resolution  of 
September  25,  1778,  Journals  of  Congress,  iii,  68,  69. 

3  An  important  bounty  land  resolution  of  September  16,  1776,  was  also  passed 
with  this  end  in  view. 

8  Writings  of  Washington,  vi,  301-304. 


selves  (out)  of  professions  and  employments  they  might  not 
have  it  in  their  power  to  resume;  but  would  in  a  great  de- 
gree relieve  the  painful  anticipation  of  leaving  their  widows 
and  orphans,  a  burthen  on  the  charity  of  their  country, 
should  it  be  their  lot  to  fall  in  its  defence." 

As  a  result  of  Washington's  appeal,  after  several  weeks  of 
deliberation,  Congress,  on  May  15,  1778,  unanimously  voted 
to  all  commissioned  officers,  who  should  continue  in  the  ser- 
vice of  the  United  States  to  the  end  of  the  war,  half  pay  for 
seven  years  after  its  conclusion.1  This  resolution  did  not 
apply  to  foreign  officers,  and  the  half  pay  was  not  to  exceed 
that  of  a  colonel.  At  the  same  time,  Congress  promised  to 
soldiers  who  should  serve  to  the  end  of  the  war  a  gratuity 
of  eighty  dollars.  On  August  24,  1780,  a  resolution  was 
adopted  extending  the  above  half  pay  provision  to  the 
widows,  or  orphan  children,  of  such  officers  as  had  died,  or 
should  die  in  the  service.2  This  was  the  first  national  pen- 
sion law  in  behalf  of  widows  and  orphans.  Congress  recom- 
mended to  the  several  State  legislatures  to  make  the  neces- 
sary payments  on  account  of  the  United  States.s 

Notwithstanding  the  efforts  to  encourage  service  in  the 
army,  distress  and  discontent  continued.  The  Continental 
Congress  had  neither  cash  nor  credit.  It  could  make  prom- 
ises without  end,  but  pay  only  in  its  own  depreciated  and 
worthless  bills.  The  States  had  little  regard  for  its  requisi- 
tions and  recommendations.  Complaints  from  the  army 
multiplied.  No  officer  could  live  upon  his  pay,  and  hun- 

1  Journals  of  Congress,  ii,  554-555.  A  vote  favorable  to  a  grant  of  half  pay  for 
life  to  those  officers  was  taken  on  April  26,  1778,  but  the  measure  was  not  at  that 
time  finally  adopted.  Ibid.%  ii,  528. 

3  Journals  of  Congress,  iii,  512-513. 

8  After  the  adoption  of  the  Federal  Constitution,  resolutions  of  Congress  of  No- 
vember 2,  1785,  and  July  23, 1787,  were  construed  as  barring  further  claims  under 
the  resolution  of  August  24,  1780.  Section  I  of  the  Act  of  March  23,  1792,  sus- 
pended the  barring  resolutions  for  two  years.  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  i,  243. 

235]  PRIOR  TO  1789  ij 

dreds,  unable  longer  to  support  themselves,  resigned  their 
commissions.  Others  were  unfit  for  duty  for  want  of  cloth- 
ing. In  this  dire  emergency,  Congress  was  helpless.1 

Moved  by  these  troubles,  Washington  wrote  to  the  Presi- 
dent of  Congress,  on  October  II,  1780,  urgently  advocating 
what  he  had  long  desired,  a  promise  of  half  pay  for  life  to 
those  officers  who  should  serve  to  the  end  of  the  war.3 
"  Supported  by  a  prospect  of  a  permanent  independence," 
said  he,  "  the  officers  would  be  tied  to  the  Service,  and 
would  submit  to  many  momentary  privations,  and  to  the  in- 
conveniences, which  the  situation  of  public  affairs  makes  un- 
avoidable. This  is  exemplified  in  the  Pennsylvania  officers, 
who,  being  upon  this  establishment,3  are  so  much  interested 
in  the  Service,  that,  in  the  course  of  five  months,  there  has 
been  only  one  resignation  in  that  line."  On  October  21, 
1780,  Congress,  after  consideration  of  the  report  of  the  com- 
mittee on  General  Washington's  letter,  resolved  that  all  offi- 
cers, who  should  continue  in  service  to  the  end  of  the  war, 
should  be  entitled  to  half  pay  during  life,  to  commence  from 
the  time  of  their  reduction.4  This  action  was  vigorously  op- 
posed in  Congress,  and  caused  considerable  agitation  in 
some  of  the  States. 

During  the  progress  of  the  war,  Congress  made  further  pro- 
vision for  invalids  by  the  resolution  of  April  23,  1782.5  This 
allowed  soldiers,  who  were  sick  or  wounded,  and  were  reported 
unfit  for  duty  either  in  the  field  or  in  garrison,  to  receive  a 
discharge,  and  to  be  pensioned  at  the  rate  of  five  dollars 
per  month.  The  States  were  requested  to  discharge  such 
pensions  annually,  and  to  draw  upon  the  Superintendent  of 
Finance  for  the  money  advanced. 

1  Writings  of  Washington,  viii,  379-380.  2  Ibid.,  viii,  483-484. 

»  Pennsylvania  by  Act  of  March  I,  1780,  increased  the  half  pay  for  seven  years, 
granted  by  Congress  to  commissioned  officers  who  should  serve  to  the  end  of  the 
war,  to  half  pay  for  life.  Laws  of  Penna.,  i,  488-489. 

4  Journals  of  Congress,  iii,  538-539.  5  Ibid.,  iv,  18-19. 


1  8  MI  LI  TAR  Y  PENSION  LE  GISLA  TION  [236 

As  the  end  of  the  war  approached,  the  feeling  against  the 
half  pay  for  life  to  Revolutionary  officers  grew  in  some  sec- 
tions of  the  country  into  a  fierce  clamor  of  opposition.  The 
officers  began  to  fear  that  they  would  never  get  their  due. 
In  December,  1782,  those  of  Washington's  command  set 
forth  their  grievances  in  a  memorial  to  Congress.1  They 
complained  that  no  effectual  provision  had  been  made  for 
the  half  pay,  and  that  those  entitled  to  it  had  become  the 
objects  of  obloquy.  The  grant  seemed  to  them  an  honor- 
able and  just  recompense  for  years  of  hard  service  in  which 
they  had  suffered  in  health  and  fortune.  If  the  objection  were 
against  the  mode  of  reward  only,  they  offered  in  the  interest 
of  harmony  to  commute  the  half  pay  pledged  for  full  pay 
during  a  term  of  years,  or  for  a  sum  in  gross.  Congress  was 
also  petitioned  to  make  proper  provision  for  the  disabled 
officers  and  soldiers,  and  for  the  widows  and  orphans  of 
those  who  had  lost  their  lives  in  the  service  of  their  country. 

The  officers  had  good  reason  for  their  fears,  for  in  Con- 
gress there  was  determined  opposition  on  the  part  of  the 
New  England  States  to  any  provision  whatever  regarding  the 
half  pay.  Various  propositions  for  commutation  were  voted 
down,2  the  delegates  from  Connecticut  and  Rhode  Island3 
being  especially  instructed  against  that  manner  of  settlement. 
The  validity  of  the  original  promise  of  Congress  was  called 
in  question,  but  stoutly  defended  by  Madison  and  by  Wil- 
son, of  Pennsylvania.  The  latter  criticised  instructions 
which  4<  militated  against  the  most  peremptory  and  lawful 
engagements  of  Congress,"  and  said  that  "  if  such  a  doc- 
trine prevailed  the  authority  of  the  Confederacy  was  at  an 
end."  ^ 

Meanwhile,  the  discontent  in  the  army  was  reaching  acute 

1  Journals  of  Congress,  iv,  207.  *  Ibid.,  iv,  152. 

8  Records  of  Colony  of  R.  /.,  1780-1783,  ix,  610. 

4  Gilpin,  Madison  Papers,  i,  275-277,  280,  320-321,  358. 

237]  PRIOR  TO  1789  !<2 

stages.  About  March  10,  1783,  appeared  the  famous 
"  Newburgh  addresses,"  urging  the  officers  of  the  army  not 
to  separate  until  Congress  had  done  justice  to  their  claims. 
Washington  transmitted  copies  of  these  addresses  to  Con- 
gress, accompanied  by  official  letters  detailing  the  occur- 
rences at  the  Newburgh  encampment.  In  his  letter  of 
March  18,  he  urged  Congress  to  take  measures  to  carry  the 
half  pay  provision  into  effect.1  He  pointed  out  that,  at  a 
critical  and  perilous  moment,  the  promise  of  half  pay  for 
life  had  been  attended  with  the  happiest  consequences,  and 
had  perhaps  prevented  the  dissolution  of  the  army.  The 
establishment  of  security  for  the  payment  of  all  the  just  de- 
mands of  the  army,  he  thought  would  be  the  most  certain 
means  of  preserving  the  national  faith  and  the  future  tran- 
quillity of  the  continent. 

Congress  was  at  length  compelled  by  the  critical  state  of 
affairs  to  act.  On  March  22,  1783,  the  necessary  nine  States 
voted  in  favor  of  commutation  of  the  half  pay  for  life  to  five 
years'  full  pay,  in  money,  or  in  securities  bearing  interest  at 
six  per  cent,  per  annum,  as  Congress  should  find  most  con- 
venient.2 The  officers  in  the  lines  of  the  respective  States 
were  given  an  option,  when  acting  in  each  State  collectively, 
as  to  the  acceptance  or  refusal  of  the  securities  offered. 
This  resolution,  known  as  the  Commutation  Act,  gave  great 
satisfaction  in  the  army,  as  is  shown  by  letters  of  Washing- 
ton, dated  March  30  and  31,  1783.3 

1  Writings  of  Washington,  x,  180-181.  Also  see  Journals  of  Congress,  iv, 

*  Journals  of  Congress,  iv,  178-179.  In  the  Address  to  the  States,  issued  by 
Congress  on  April  24,  1783,  the  commutation  of  half  pay  was  estimated  at 
$5,000,000,  involving  an  annual  interest  charge  of  $300,000.  This  address  was 
occupied  with  the  financial  affairs  of  the  nation,  and,  in  it,  Congress  asked  the 
consent  of  the  States  to  the  laying  of  an  impost  duty  to  provide  the  general  gov- 
ernment with  an  independent  revenue.  Journals  of  Congress,  iv,  194-215. 

8  Writings  of  Washington,  x,  199,  footnote;  203,  footnote.  Also  Madison 
Papers,  i,  433. 


But  far  different  was  the  feeling  among  the  people  of  the 
New  England  States.  There  the  Commutation  Act  evoked 
a  storm  of  protest.  The  Massachusetts  legislature  in  July, 
1783,  sent  to  Congress  a  remonstrance  against  the  act.1 
They  thought  the  grant  more  than  an  adequate  reward  for 
the  services  of  the  officers,  "  inconsistent  with  that  equality 
*  which  ought  to  subsist  among  citizens  of  free  and  republi- 
can States,"  and  "  calculated  to  raise  and  exalt  some  citizens 
in  wealth  and  grandeur,  to  the  injury  and  oppression  of 
others."  While  expressing  horror  at  the  most  distant  idea 
of  the  dissolution  of  the  union,  they  observed  "  that  the  ex- 
traordinary grants  and  allowances  which  Congress  have 
thought  proper  to  make  to  their  civil  and  military  officers, 
have  produced  such  effects  in  this  commonwealth,  as  are  of 
a  threatening  aspect."  For  these  reasons,  the  General  Court 
refused  the  consent  of  the  State  to  the  impost  duty  recom- 
mended by  Congress  in  its  address,  but  promised  to  consider 
the  matter  again  at  the  next  session. 

The  extreme  gravity  of  the  situation  is  shown  by  a  letter 
from  Madison  to  Randolph,  dated  September  8,  1783.  He 
said :  "  The  opposition  in  the  New  England  States  to  the 
grant  of  half  pay,  instead  of  subsiding,  has  increased  to  such 
a  degree  as  to  produce  almost  a  general  anarchy.  In  what 
shape  it  will  issue  is  altogether  uncertain.  Those  who  are 
interested  in  the  event  look  forward  with  very  poignant  ap- 
prehensions. Nothing  but  some  Continental  provision  can 
obtain  for  them  this  part  of  their  reward."3 

In  November,  1783,  the  House  of  Representatives  of  Con- 
necticut protested  that  neither  the  half  pay  for  life,  nor  the 
commutation,  was  warranted  by  the  Articles  of  Confedera- 
tion, or  by  any  power  ever  delegated  to  Congress.3  Among 

1  Journals  of  Congress,  iv,  276. 

a  Madison  Papers,  i,  572. 

3  Journals  of  Congress,  iv,  347,  and  Boutell,  Life  of  Roger  Sherman,  329-332. 

239]  PRIOR  TO  1789  21 

the  people  of  this  State,  the  feeling  against  the  Commuta- 
tion Act  amounted  almost  to  frenzy.  Complaints  and 
threats  were  heard  everywhere  at  the  town  meetings,  and 
two-thirds  of  the  towns  were  represented  at  a  State  conven- 
tion at  Middletown,  called  to  take  measures  of  resistance. 
This  gathering  indulged  in  plenty  of  excited  speech-making, 
but  accomplished  nothing  of  importance.  It  became  after- 
wards the  subject  of  satirical  poems  and  lampoons.  Noah 
Webster,  then  a  young  man,  in  a  series  of  able  essays  pub- 
lished in  the  Connecticut  Courant,  strongly  condemned  the 
opposition  of  the  convention  and  town  meetings,  and  sup- 
ported the  action  of  Congress.1 

The  agitation  against  commutation  gradually  subsided. 
Samuel  Adams,  who,  while  in  Congress,  had  vigorously 
opposed  the  original  grant  of  half  pay  for  life,  was  among  those 
whose  influence  served  powerfully  to  quiet  the  public  com- 
motion. He  held  that  Congress  had  an  undoubted  right  to 
make  the  grant,  and  that,  even  though  the  measure  should 
seem  to  any  to  have  been  ill-judged,  the  States  were  bound  in 
justice  and  honor  to  comply  with  it.2  To  the  officers  of  the 
army,  who  had  felt  themselves  in  danger  of  receiving  nothing 
at  all,  the  provision  was  in  general  acceptable.  By  October 
31,  1783,  the  Secretary  at  War  reported  that  the  commuta- 
tion had  been  accepted  by  the  lines  of  New  Hampshire, 
Massachusetts,  Rhode  Island,  Connecticut,  New  York,  New 
Jersey,  Pennsylvania,  Delaware,  Maryland  and  Virginia,  and 
also  by  numerous  separate  commands  and  individuals.3  Con- 
gress issued  a  proclamation  disbanding  the  army  from  and 
after  November  3,  1 783.4 

In  settling  the  claims  of  the  officers  of  the  army,  the  Pay- 
master General  found  that  the  number  who  were  entitled  to 

1  Wells,  Life  of  S.  Adams,  iii,  207-208,  and  McMaster,  History,  i,  180,  footnote. 

*  Wells,  Life  of  S.  Adams,  iii,  208-210. 

*  Journals  of  Congress,  iv,  31 1,  4  Ibid.,  iv,  299. 

2  2  MI  LI  TAR  Y  PENSION  LE  GISLA  TION  f  2  40 

half  pay  or  commutation  was  2,480.  Since  the  Confedera- 
tion had  no  available  funds,  the  officers  received  not  money 
but  commutation  certificates,  payable  to  them  or  bearer  and 
drawing  interest  at  six  per  cent.  These  proved  wretched 
security.  No  provision  was  for  paying  either  interest 
or  principal.  Many  officers  were  driven  by  necessity  to  part 
with  their  certificates  for  what  they  could  obtain,  and  their 
cash  value  in  the  market  soon  fell  to  twelve  and  a  half  cents 
on  the  dollar.1  After  the  adoption  of  the  Federal  Constitution, 
the  act  for  the  funding  of  the  domestic  debt  provided  that, 
beginning  with  January  I,  1791,  the  holders  of  commutation 
certificates  should  receive  a  three  per  cent  stock  for  the  in- 
terest in  arrears,  a  six  per  cent  stock  for  two  thirds  of  the 
principal,  and  a  deferred  stock,  bearing  no  interest  until  the 
expiration  of  ten  years, — and  then  at  six  per  cent — for  the 
other  third.2  At  this  time  a  large  share  of  the  certificates 
was  in  the  hands  of  speculators,  and  officers,  who  had  parted 

^  with  them  for  a  small  fraction  of  their  face  value,  lost  all  ad- 
vantage from  the  provision  so  tardily  made.3 

A  On  June  7,  1785,  some  time  after  peace  had  been  estab- 
lished and  the  army  disbanded,  the  matter  of  invalid  pensions 
again  received  the  attention  of  Congress.4  In  the  resolu- 
tions adopted  at  this  time,  a  uniform  method  of  providing 
for  the  invalid  pensioners  was  recommended  to  the  several 
states.  Commissioned  officers,  so  disabled  as  to  be  wholly 
incapable  of  earning  a  livelihood,  were  to  be  allowed  a  half 
pay  pension.  For  non-commissioned  officers  or  privates,  a 

1  See  Reports  of  Committees  (H.  of  R.),  2d  Sess.,  ipth  Congress,  i,  no.  6. 

2  Act  of  August  4,  1790,  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  i,  138. 

3  The  settlement  of  these  half  pay  claims  was  long  a  cause  of  dissatisfaction 
among  surviving  Revolutionary  officers.     The  matter  was  frequently  agitated  and 
debated  in  Congress  until  the  passage  of  the  Act  of  May  15,  1828,  an  account  of 
which  is  given  in  the  next  chapter. 

*  Journah  of  Congress,  iv,  534-535. 


241]  PRIOR  TO  1789  23 

full  pension  was  fixed  at  five  dollars  per  month.  Propor- 
tional rates  might  be  allowed  for  partial  disability.  Congress 
requested  that  each  State  should  appoint  officers  to  examine 
the  evidence  of  claimants,  admit  claims,  and  make  the  pen-  ' 
sion  payments.  Amounts  so  expended  were  to  be  deducted 
from  the  respective  quotas  of  the  States  for  the  year  in  which 
the  payments  were  made.  No  officer  who  had  accepted  his 
commutation  for  half  pay  was  to  be  entered  on  the  list  of  in- 
valids, unless  he  should  first  have  returned  his  commutation. 
This  plan  also  made  it  the  duty  of  the  State  authorities  to 
transmit  annually  complete  lists  of  the  invalid  pensioners  of 
the  United  States  in  each  State  to  the  office  of  the  Secretary 
of  War,  with  information  as  to  the  pay,  age,  service  and  dis- 
ability of  each  invalid.1 

The  Congress  of  the  Confederation  passed,  on  June  II, 
1788,  its  last  resolutions  on  the  subject  of  invalid  pensions.2 
One  of  these  declared  :  "  That  no  person  shall  be  entitled  to 
a  pension  as  an  invalid  who  has  not,  or  shall  not  before  the 
expiration  of  six  months  from  this  time,  make  application 
therefor,  and  produce  the  requisite  certificates  and  evidence 
to  entitle  him  thereto."  If  this  limitation  had  been  retained 
in  force,  no  Revolutionary  invalid  pensions  could  have  been 
allowed  after  December  II,  1788,  except  by  special  act.  In 
1792,  before  the  limitation  was  suspended  by  the  Federal 
Congress,  there  were  about  1,500  invalid  pensioners  on  the 
rolls  under  the  laws  thus  far  considered.3 

The  body  of  pension  and  half  pay  legislation,  which  we 
have  examined,  was   primarily   intended   as  an   incentive  to  L/ 
enlistment  and  service  in  the  military  forces  of  the  revolting 

colonies.     The  invalid  pension  provisions  depended  for  their 


1  See  Hening,  xi,  102,  for  the  Virginia  law  passed  in  pursuance  of  this  act  of 

*  Journals  of  Congress,  iv,  821.    The  resolution  quoted  is  so  in  text. 
3  American  State  Papers,  Claims,  57. 


efficacy  upon  State  action,  which  was  often  lacking.  But 
Congress,  after  the  inauguration  of  the  Federal  Government, 
v  allowed  to  invalid  pensioners  the  payments  which  had  been 
left  in  arrears  by  the  States.1  The  half  pay  legislation  aimed 
at  keeping  the  officers  in  service  in  the  face  of  the  most  dis- 
couraging conditions.  It  was  virtually  the  promise  of  a  re- 
tirement pension  at  the  close  of  the  war,  in  lieu  of  pay  and 
other  proper  provisions  during  the  progress  of  hostilities. 
We  have  seen  how  the  promise  was  kept.  From  the  stand- 
point of  mere  numbers  of  persons  and  sums  of  money  in- 
volved, the  pension  legislation  of  this  period  is  not  of  great 
importance.  But  it  is  of  importance,  both  in  its  connection 
with  the  history  of  the  time,  and  as  the  source  from  which 
our  great  national  pension  system  has  developed.  With  the 
growth  of  that  system,  its  ever  broadening  scope  and  in- 
creasing liberality,  its  complicated  and  difficult  administra- 
tion, and  its  often  wasteful  extravagance,  this  study  is  occu- 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  atLargt,  vi,  4. 



AMONG  the  many  changes  brought  about  by  the  inaugu- 
ration of  the  Federal  Government  in  1 789  was  the  centraliza- 
tion of  pension  administration.  The  first  Congress  under 
the  new  government  provided,  in  September,  1789,  for  the 
continuance  by  the  United  States  of  the  pensions  which, 
under  Congressional  authority,  had  been  granted  and  paid 
by  the  States  to  Revolutionary  invalids.1  This  continuance, 
at  first  for  one  year,  was  several  times  renewed  for  a  like 
period,  and  finally  extended  indefinitely  for  the  life  of  the 
pensioners.  In  1790,  the  United  States  also  undertook  the 
payment  of  certain  arrears  to  March  4,  1789,  due  to  Revo- 
lutionary pensioners,  and  unpaid  through  the  neglect  or  re- 
fusal of  the  States  to  act.2  The  Secretary  of  War  became 
the  principal  executive  officer  concerned  with  the  national 
pension  administration,  but  Congress  for  a  long  time  reserved 
to  itself  a  direct  control  over  the  final  allowance  of  claims. 
It  is  noteworthy  that  there  was  not  a  complete  transfer  of 
pensioners  from  State  to  national  rolls.  Individual  States 
continued  to  pay  regular  stipends  to  many  persons  who 
been  pensioned  for  various  causes  under  State  laws,  but 
without  authority  of  Congress. 

Scarcely  had  the  National  Government  assumed  the  pen- 
sion administration  when  Congress  was  beset  with  petitions 
from  soldiers  of  the  Revolution  for  original  pensions  or  in- 
crease. Some  had  neglected  to  apply  within  the  time  limit 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  i,  95.  *  Ibid.,  vi,  4. 

243]  25 


prescribed  by  previous  legislation;  others,  unsuccessful  in 
the  States,  came  to  Congress  with  their  claims.  Special 
legislation  was  the  only  means  of  relief,  since  there  was  no 
general  law  in  force. 

These  claims  were  frequently  referred  for  a  report  and 
opinion  to  the  Secretary  of  War,  General  Knox.  We  find 
that  he  was  not  favorably  disposed  toward  them,  especially 
where  they  had  been  already  rejected  in  the  States.  He 
thought  that  claims  which  had  failed  under  all  the  circum- 
stances of  local  information  and  influence,  even  though  the 
provision  was  made  at  the  expense  of  the  United  States, 
could  not  be  well  founded.  Knox  also  advised  Congress  to 
adhere  to  the  six  months'  limitation  prescribed  by  the  resolu- 
tion of  June  n,  1788.  Had  his  counsel  shaped  the  policy 
of  the  Government,  the  payments  to  Revolutionary  pensioners 
would  never  have  been  of  much  importance.  In  March, 
1792,  the  number  of  non-commissioned  officers  and  privates 
on  the  general  pension  list  was  1,358,  none  of  whom  received 
a  pension  exceeding  five  dollars  per  month.  The  entire 
number  of  invalid  pensioners  of  all  descriptions  at  that  time 
was  1,472.  With  no  general  pension  law,  and  with  special 
acts  passed  only  in  exceptional  cases,  death  would  have 
slowly  but  surely  wiped  out  this  small  list.1 

Quite  different  was  the  actual  course  of  events.  Respond- 
ing to  the  pressure  of  applicants  and  to  favorable  expressions 
of  public  opinion,  Congress  enacted  the  general  pension  law 
of  March  23,  I792.2  As  a  pension  law,  it  is  of  small  import- 
ance, for  the  greater  part  of  it  was  soon  repealed.  Its  great 
significance  is  found  in  the  fact  that  it  furnished  the  first 
occasion  for  a  disagreement  between  Congress  and  the 
Judiciary  as  to  their  respective  powers  under  the  Federal 

1  See  Reports  of  Sec'y  Knox,  American  State  Papers,  Claims,  5,  18,  28,  57. 
1 U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  i,  243. 

245]  REVOLUTIONARY,  1789-1878  2/ 

The  law  imposed  upon  the  Circuit  Courts  of  the  United 
States  the  duty  of  examining,  in  person,  applicants  for  pen- 
sions, receiving  prescribed  proofs  of  service  and  disability, 
and  determining  the  nature  and  degree  of  the  disability.  If 
an  applicant  was  found  entitled  to  be  placed  on  the  pension 
list,  the  court  was  required  to  transmit  a  written  report  to 
that  effect  to  the  Secretary  of  War  with  an  opinion  as  to  the 
proportion  of  the  monthly  pay  of  the  applicant,  which  would 
be  equivalent  to  the  degree  of  disability  ascertained.  The 
Secretary  of  War  was  then  to  place  the  name  of  the  appli- 
cant upon  the  pension  list  of  the  United  States,  in  conform- 
ity to  the  opinion  of  the  court  and  accompanying  certifi- 
cates. But  when  the  Secretary  suspected  imposition  or 
mistake,  he  was  empowered  to  withhold  the  name  from  the 
pension  list,  and  make  report  of  the  matter  to  Congress  for 
consideration  at  the  next  session.  Thus  each  Circuit  Court 
was  virtually  constituted  a  bureau  for  the  examination  and 
allowance  of  pension  claims,  with  its  decisions  subject  to 
revision  by  the  Secretary  of  War  and  Congress. 

The  judges  promptly  denied  the  power  of  Congress  to 
impose  upon  them  the  duties  set  forth  in  the  above  act. 
Chief  Justice  John  Jay  and  Associate  Justice  William  Cush- 
ing,  of  the  Supreme  Court,  sitting  with  James  Duane,  dis- 
trict judge,  as  a  Circuit  Court  for  the  district  of  New  York, 
sent,  in  April,  1792,  to  President  Washington  a  letter  of  pro- 
test, which  they  desired  him  to  communicate  to  Congress.1 
With  boldness  and  unanimity  they  asserted  the  independence 
of  the  judiciary  as  a  distinct  and  co-ordinate  branch  of  the 
government.  Neither  the  legislative  nor  the  executive 
branch,  argued  they,  could  constitutionally  assign  to  the 
judicial  any  duties  but  such  as  were  properly  judicial  and  to 
be  performed  in  a  judicial  manner.  The  duties  imposed  by 

1  American  State  Papers,  Miscellaneous,  i,  49-53.  See  also  Carson,  Supreme 
Court  of  United  States,  162-163. 


the  act  in  question  were  not  of  that  description,  since  the 
decisions  of  the  court  were  made  subject  to  the  considera- 
tion of  the  Secretary  of  War  and  to  the  revision  of  the  legis- 
lature ;  whereas,  under  the  Constitution,  no  executive  officer, 
nor  even  the  legislature,  was  authorized  to  sit  as  a  court  of 
errors  on  the  judicial  acts  or  opinions  of  the  Circuit  Courts. 
Similar  opinions  were  expressed  in  letters  to  the  President 
from  the  judges  of  the  Pennsylvania  and  North  Carolina  Cir- 
cuit Courts.  The  judges  of  the  New  York  Circuit  were,  how- 
ever, willing  to  regard  themselves  as  commissioners,  desig- 
nated by  the  act,  and  therefore  at  liberty  either  to  accept  or 
decline  the  office.  Since  the  objects  of  the  law  were  benev- 
olent, they  agreed  to  adjudicate  claims  as  commissioners, 
adjourning  the  Circuit  Court  for  that  purpose. 

As  a  consequence  of  the  refusal  of  the  Pennsylvania  Cir- 
cuit Court  to  recognize  the  validity  of  the  act  of  1792,  At- 
torney General  Randolph,  at  the  August  term  of  that  year, 
made  application  to  the  Supreme  Court  for  a  writ  of  man- 
damus directing  the  Pennsylvania  court  to  proceed  in  the 
case  of  William  Hayburn,  an  applicant  for  a  pension.1  No 
decision  was  ever  pronounced,  as,  while  the  matter  was  yet 
under  consideration,  Congress  passed  a  law  providing  other 
regulations  for  the  granting  of  pensions. 

Some  of  the  judges,  styling  themselves  commissioners, 
adjudicated  claims  under  the  disputed  law.2  Such  adjudica- 
tions were  declared  invalid  by  the  Supreme  Court  in  Feb- 
ruary, 1794,  in  the  case  of  Yale  Todd,  a  Connecticut  claim- 
ant.3 But  this  decision,  while  denying  the  authority  of  the 
judges  to  act  in  the  capacity  of  commissioners  under  the 
act  of  1792,  did  not  touch  the  main  question  of  the  consti- 
tutionality of  that  law.  There  seems  to  have  been  no  formal 
judicial  decision  on  that  point,  but  the  letters  of  the  judges 

1  Hayburn's  Case,  2  Dallas,  409. 

*  American  State  Papers,  Claims,  56-67.  3  13  Howard,  52,  note. 

247]  RE  VOL  UTIONAR  Y,  1789-1878  2$ 

clearly  indicate  their  opinion.  The  case  is  important  as 
being  the  first  in  the  history  of  the  Federal  Government  in 
which  a  law  was  rendered  of  no  effect  by  the  virtual,  if  not 
formally  expressed,  opinion  of  the  Supreme  Court  that  it  was 
repugnant  to  the  Constitution.1 

Congress  yielded  to  the  contention  of  the  Judiciary  by 
passing  the  act  of  February  28,  1793,  which  repealed  the 
objectionable  sections  of  the  act  of  1792  and  established 
new  regulations.2  All  evidence  relative  to  invalids  was  to  be 
taken  upon  oath  before  the  judge  of  the  district  in  which  the 
invalids  resided,  or  before  any  three  persons  commissioned 
by  the  judge.  Claimants  were  required  to  prove  decisive 
disability  resulting  from  known  wounds  received  while  in  the 
actual  line  of  duty  in  the  service  of  the  United  States  during 
the  Revolutionary  War.  Each  district  judge  was  directed  to 
transmit  a  list  of  claims,  accompanied  by  all  required  evi- 
dence, to  the  Secretary  of  War  for  comparison  with  the  mus- 
ter rolls  and  other  documents  in  his  office.  The  Secretary 
was  then  to  make  a  statement  of  the  cases  to  Congress, 
which  reserved  to  itself  the  power  of  final  action  in  the  al- 
lowance of  claims.  No  claim  under  the  law  was  to  be 
allowed  unless  presented  within  two  years  from  its  passage. 

The  evidence  in  support  of  many  of  the  applications 
under  this  act  was  very  defective.  Muster  rolls  were  lost, 
and  the  proof,  in  most  cases,  depended  alone  upon  the  affi- 
davits produced  by  the  claimants.  The  Secretary  of  War 
transmitted  to  Congress  lists  of  claimants  as  provided  by 
law.  In  one  instance,  Congress  granted  pensions  to  all  per- 
sons included  in  the  Secretary's  report  whom  he  should  find 
to  have  clearly  established  claims  under  the  law.3  In  acting 
upon  later  lists,  Congress  specifically  named  each  individual 

1  See  Thayer,  Cases  on   Constitutional  Law,  Parts  i  and  ii,  105  note,  and  also 
131  U.  S.,  Appendix,  ccxxxv. 

2  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  i,  324.  3  Ibid.,  i,  392. 


to  whom  a  pension- was  allowed,  together  with  the  rate  at 
which  he  was  to  be  paid.1  A  full  pension  for  a  non-commis- 
sioned officer  or  private  soldier  was  fixed  at  five  dollars  per 
month,  and  for  a  commissioned  officer  at  one-half  of  his 
monthly  pay. 

Between  1793  and  1803,  no  important  alterations  in  the 
existing  Revolutionary  pension  laws  were  made.  There 
seems  to  have  prevailed  a  laudable  disposition  to  guard  the 
interests  of  the  Government  against  claims  of  an  unreasona- 
ble or  fraudulent  character.  On  a  proposition  in  1798  to 
amend  the  acts  respecting  invalid  pensioners,  the  Committee 
on  Claims  of  the  House  of  Representatives,  after  reviewing 
the  course  of  pension  legislation  to  that  date,  reported  that 
"  the  provisions  heretofore  made  for  admission  of  claims  of 
this  nature  have  been  as  extensive  as  the  principles  of  jus- 
tice, equity  or  good  policy  required ;  and  that  it  would  not 
be  expedient  to  make  any  alteration  in  the  existing  laws."3 

Such  views,  however,  did  not  long  prevail.  The  expira- 
tion, in  1795,  of  the  act  of  1793  had  left  the  statute  books 
for  some  time  without  any  general  provision  for  the  further 
admission  of  Revolutionary  pension  claims.  But  the  solici- 
tations of  claimants  continued,  and,  in  1803,  Congress  was 
prevailed  upon  to  enact  a  new  invalid  pension  law.s  Rates 
remained  as  under  the  act  of  1793,  and  the  method  of  ad- 
ministration was  much  the  same.  The  most  important 
change  in  procedure  was  the  endowment  of  the  Secretary  of 
War  with  the  power  of  final  decision  in  the  allowance  of 

A  supplementary  act  of  March  3,  1805,  extended  the 
benefits  of  the  pension  law  to  those  who,  in  consequence  of 
known  wounds  received  in  the  military  service  during  the 
Revolution,  had  at  any  period  since  the  war  become  and  con- 

1  For  example,  see  Act  of  April  20,  1796,  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  i,  454. 

3  American  State  Papers,  Claims,  216-218.         *U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  ii,  242. 

2  49  ]  RE  VOL  u  TIONAR  Y,  1789-1878  3 1 

tinued  disabled  so  as  to  render  them  unable  to  procure  a 
subsistence  by  manual  labor.1  This  opened  the  way  for  the 
tracing  of  the  disabilities  and  ills  of  later  life  to  wounds  from 
which  the  claimants  had  apparently  enjoyed  a  complete  re- 

Invalid  pension  legislation  on  behalf  of  soldiers  of  the 
Revolution  reached  its  most  comprehensive  form  in  the  act 
of  April  10,  i8o6,2  and  supplementary  provisions.  This 
liberal  law  repealed  all  former  enactments  conferring  pen- 
sions on  Revolutionary  invalids,  and  from  the  date  of  its 
passage  became  the  fundamental  provision  upon  which  the 
claims  of  such  invalids  were  thereafter  based.  It  did  not,  of 
course,  affect  pensions  already  granted.  Within  the  scope 
of  this  act  of  1806  were  included  all  those  classes  of  claim- 
ants who  had  been  provided  for  by  previous  legislation,  and, 
in  addition,  all  volunteers,  militia  and  State  troops,  who  had 
served  against  the  common  enemy  in  the  Revolutionary  War. 
Disability  must  have  been  the  result  of  known  wounds  re- 
ceived in  the  line  of  duty,  and  must  have  been  such  as  to 
render  the  applicant  wholly  or  partially  unable  to  procure  a 
subsistence  by  manual  labor.  Desertion  was  a  bar  to  a 
claim.  The  method  of  taking  evidence  and  examining 
claims  was  similar  to  that  under  the  laws  of  1/93  and  1803. 
Congress,  however,  once  more  reserved  to  itself  the  power 
of  final  action  in  placing  names  on  the  pension  list,  which 
had  been  delegated  to  the  Secretary  of  War  under  the  act  of 

Rates  of  pensions  under  the  act  of  1806  were  the  same  as 
under  previous  laws.  Each  pension  was  to  commence  on  the 
date  of  the  completion  of  the  testimony.  For  the  first  time, 
regulations  were  established  in  accordance  with  which  an  in- 
crease of  pension  might  be  granted  by  Congress  in  cases 
where  justice  required,  but,  with  the  increase  added,  no  more 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  ii,  345.  8  Ibid.,  ii,  376. 


than  a  total  disability  rate  might  be  paid.  The  sale,  trans- 
fer or  mortgage  of  the  whole  or  any  part  of  a  pension  before 
the  same  became  due  was  declared  invalid.  Claims  in  pro- 
cess of  adjudication  were  not  prejudiced  by  this  law,  and  its 
operation  was  limited  to  six  years  from  the  date  of  its  pass- 

In  the  execution  of  the  law  of  1806,  Congress  passed  a 
series  of  acts  pensioning  long  lists  of  claimants  at  varying 
rates  per  month.  One  of  these  acts  which  became  law  on 
April  25,  1808,  contained  two  important  additional  sections.1 

Section  3  directed  the  Secretary  of  War  to  place  on  the 
pension  list  of  the  United  States  all  persons  who  remained 
on  the  pension  lists  of  any  of  the  States,  and  were  placed 
there  in  consequence  of  disability  occasioned  by  known 
wounds  received  during  the  Revolutionary  War,  whether  on 
land  or  sea,  in  the  service  of  the  United  States  or  of  any 
particular  State,  in  the  regular  army,  militia  or  volunteers. 
This  completed  the  assumption  by  the  United  States  of  the 
payment  of  all  the  Revolutionary  invalid  pensioners  in  the 
States.  Section  4  of  this  act  of  1 808  extend  the  benefits  of 
the  act  of  1 806  to  all  persons  who  had  been  disabled  since  the 
Revolutionary  War,  while  in  the  line  of  duty,  in  the  actual 
service  of  the  United  States,  whether  belonging  to  the 
military  establishment,  or  the  militia,  or  any  volunteer  corps, 
called  into  service  under  authority  of  the  United  States. 

When  the  act  of  1806  expired  by  limitation  in  1812,  it 
was  renewed  and  continued  in  force  for  six  years  by  the  act 
of  April  25,  1812.  It  was  afterwards  revived  for  one  year 
by  the  act  of  May  15,  1820,  and  for  periods  of  six  years 
each  by  the  acts  of  February  4,  1822,  and  May  24,  i828.2 
These  later  renewals  were  subject  to  amendments  which  had 
been  made,  and  which  will  be  mentioned  in  due  time. 

A  step  in  the  direction  of  increased  pension  expenditures 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  ii,  491.  *  Ibid.,  ii,  718;  iii,  596,  650;  iv,  307. 

251]  RE  VOL  UTIONAR  Y,  1789-1878  3  3 

was  taken  in  the  act  of  April  24,  I8I6.1  About  the  time  of 
the  passage  of  this  law,  the  United  States  was  expending 
annually  $120,000  for  pensions.  There  were  185  officers 
and  1,572  non-commissioned  officers  and  soldiers  of  the 
Revolutionary  army  on  the  rolls,  and  52  officers  and  391 
soldiers  who  had  become  disabled  since  the  Revolution, 
making  an  aggregate  of  2,200  pensioners.2  The  rate  of  a 
full  pension  for  a  private  was  increased  from  five  to  eight 
dollars  per  month.  Pensions  of  first  lieutenants  and  com- 
missioned officers  below  that  grade  were  also  increased  to 
the  extent  of  two  or  three  dollars  per  month.  The  act  ap- 
plied both  to  those  already  on  the  rolls,  and  to  those  of  the 
grades  mentioned  who  should  thereafter  be  granted  pensions. 
It  was  estimated  that  the  annual  expenditure  for  pensions 
would  be  increased  to  about  $200,000,  including  the  claims 
up  to  that  time  allowed  on  account  of  the  War  of  1812. 
Under  carefully  executed  invalid  laws,  the  annual  payments 
for  Revolutionary  pensions  had  apparently  reached  a  maxi- 

We  now  come  to  the  time  when  a  new  principle  was  intro- 
duced into  national  pension  legislation  by  the  enactment  of 
the  Revolutionary  service  pension  law  of  March  18,  i8i8.3 
With  this  measure  came  unsavory  scandals  and  a  startling 
increase  of  pension  expenditures.  In  his  message  of  De- 
cember, 1817,  President  Monroe  had  recommended  to  Con- 
gress some  provision  for  the  indigent  survivors  of  the  Revo- 
lutionary army,  of  whom  he  thought  there  were  but  few.4 
General  Bloomfield,  of  New  Jersey,  promptly  reported  to 
the  House  a  bill  designed  to  carry  the  President's  recom- 
mendation into  effect.  The  extended  debates  on  the  meas- 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  iii,  296. 

J American  State  Papers,  Claims,  473-474. 

5  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  iii,  410. 

*  Annals  of  Congress,  1st  Sess.,  I5th  Cong.,  1817-1818,  i,  19. 


ure  served  to  show  a  wide  diversity  of  opinion  in  Congress 
regarding  the  proper  nature  and  scope  of  pension  legisla- 
tion, and  the  law  finally  enacted  was  quite  different  from  the 
original  bill. 

In  both  Houses  there  were  pronounced  majorities  in  favor 
of  the  passage  of  a  service  pension  law,  but,  as  to  its  de- 
tailed provisions,  there  was  lack  of  harmony.  Some  wished 
a  pure  service  pension  law;  others  advocated  a  measure 
based  upon  "  service  and  poverty."  The  advocates  of  a 
service  law  knew  nothing  as  to  the  probable  number  of  ap- 
plications which  would  follow  its  passage,  nor  had  they  any 
conception  of  its  probable  cost.  Such  estimates  as  they 
attempted  proved  ridiculously  small  in  the  light  of  later 

Advocates  of  the  proposed  bill  pointed  complacently  to 
the  surplus  in  the  Treasury.  The  burden  of  their  argument 
was  eulogy  of  the  Revolutionary  soldiers,  praise  of  their  ser- 
vices, descriptions  of  the  privations  they  had  undergone, 
and  an  appeal  to  the  gratitude  of  the  country.  '•  Let  us 
show  the  world  that  Republics  are  not  ungrateful,"  said  one 
of  the  speakers.  Another  appealed  to  Congress  thus : 
"Permit  not  him,  who,  in  the  pride  of  vigor  and  youth, 
wasted  his  health  and  shed  his  blood  in  freedom's  cause, 
with  desponding  heart  and  palsied  limbs  to  totter  from  door 
to  door,  bowing  his  yet  untamed  soul  to  meet  the  frozen 
bosom  of  reluctant  charity." 

In  the  Senate,  this  service  pension  law  was  opposed  by  a 
minority,  strong  in  arguments  but  weak  in  numbers.  Sena- 
tor William  Smith  of  South  Carolina  opposed  the  general 
principle  of  the  measure,  and  asserted  that  it  was  a  way  to 
get  rid  of  a  little  money  in  the  Treasury  not  immediately 
wanted.  To  those  who  supported  the  bill  from  sentiment, 

1  In  the  Senate,  Goldsborough,  of  Maryland,  estimated  the  number  of  appli- 
cants under  the  law  as,  at  the  largest,  less  than  1900. 

253]  RE  VOL  UTIONAR  y,  1789-1878  3  5 

he  said  that  good  feelings  were  a  miserable  guide  to  a  legis- 
lator. Nor  did  he  believe  that  Congress  had  any  power 
under  the  Constitution  to  pass  such  a  law,  the  many  prece- 
dents notwithstanding.  The  following  extract  from  his 
speech  seems  almost  prophetic  in  the  light  of  later  experi- 

"  As  an  argument,  it  would  appear}  to  avoid  an  inquiry  into  the 
propriety  of  this  measure,  we  are  told  such  a  case  can  never  happen 
again — that  you  can  never  have  another  Revolutionary  War.  Will 
not  those  brave  men  who  fought  your  battles  and  triumphed  so  gal- 
lantly over  the  enemy  at  Chippewa,  Plattsburg,  Erie,  Champlain, 
Orleans  and  on  the  seas,  have  the  same  claims  upon  their  country 
some  thirty-five  years  hence,  when  time  shall  have  thrown  a  veil  over 
all  the  minute  circumstances,  and  it  shall  be  forgotten  that  they  re- 
tired from  the  army  with  reluctance,  after  being  abundantly  paid  and 
abundantly  honored  ? 

Their  claim  will  be  as  great,  and  the  precedent  you  are  about  to 
make  will  be  followed.  One  army  you  say  gained  your  independence,, 
and  the  other  has  given  it  a  new  character,  and  made  it  worth  main- 
taining. They  have  released  your  country  from  its  degraded  state  of 
impressments,  paper  blockades,  royal  orders  in  council,  and  imperial 
decrees,  and  given  it  as  high  a  grade  in  the  scale  of  nations  as  your 
independence.  This  will  be  the  beginning  of  a  military  pension  sys- 
tem which  posterity  may  regret"  ' 

The  force  of  Senator  Smith's  words  is  felt  when  we  re- 
member that  service  pension  laws,  more  or  less  limited,  have 
been  passed  on  account  of  the  War  of  1812,  the  Mexican 
War,  and  the  Indian  Wars ;  and  that  the  Dependent  Pen- 
sion Law  of  1 890,  enacted  on  account  of  the  Civil  War,  is  a 
near  approach  to  a  service  law,  and  has  already  drawn  hun- 
dreds of  millions  of  dollars  from  the  national  Treasury.  The 
service  pension  system,  inaugurated  in  1818,  has  truly  be- 
come a  burden  which  posterity  regrets. 

1  For  Senator  Smith's  speech,  see  Annals  of  Congress,  1st  Sess.,  I5th  Cong.,  i, 
140-150.  The  italics  in  the  extract  are  introduced  by  the  writer. 

3  6  MI  LI  TAR  Y  PENSION  LE  GISLA  TION  [254 

The  act  of  1818  passed  the  House  of  Representatives 
without  division.  In  the  Senate,  its  scope  was  considerably 
limited  by  amendments,  but  only  a  small  minority  actively 
opposed  it.  The  act  provided  that  every  person  who  had 
served  in  the  Revolutionary  War  until  its  close,  or  for  the 
term  of  nine  months  or  longer  at  any  period  of  the  war,  on 
the  Continental  establishment  or  in  the  navy,  and  who  was  a 
resident  citizen  of  the,  United  States,  and  was  by  reason  of 
his  reduced  circumstances  in  life  "  in  need  of  assistance  from 
his  country  for  support/'  should  receive  a  pension.  If  an 
officer,  the  rate  was  twenty  dollars  per  month,  and  if  a  non- 
commissioned officer  or  private,  eight  dollars  per  month, 
during  life.  No  person  was  to  be  entitled  to  the  benefits  of 
the  act  until  he  should  have  relinquished  his  claim  to  every 
pension  heretofore  allowed  him  by  the  laws  of  the  United 

Evidence  in  support  of  claims  was  taken  before  the  dis- 
trict judges  of  the  United  States,  or  before  any  judge  or 
court  of  record  of  the  county,  state  or  territory  in  which  the 
applicant  resided.  It  consisted  of  the  claimant's  own  decla- 
ration, supported  by  such  other  testimony  as  he  might  be 
able  to  procure.  If  satisfied  of  the  claimant's  service,  the 
judge  was  required  to  transmit  the  testimony  and  proceed- 
ings in  the  case  to  the  Secretary  of  War,  whose  duty  it  was, 
if  he  considered  the  claim  a  legal  one,  to  place  the  appli- 
cant on  the  pension  list  of  the  United  States.  The  statute 
prescribed  no  method  of  proof  of  the  claimant's  need  of 
assistance,  but  the  regulations  of  the  War  Department  re- 
quired his  oath  and  the  certificate  of  the  judge  to  establish 
that  fact.1  It  is  to  be  noted  that,  in  the  execution  of  this 
law,  Congress  gave  the  Secretary  of  War  final  power  in  the 
allowance  of  claims.  Pensions,  if  allowed,  were  to  com- 
mence from  the  date  of  the  applicant's  declaration. 

1  American  State  Papers,  Claims,  682-684. 

2  5  5  j  RE  VOL  UTIONAR  Y,  1789-1878  3  7 

If  the  members  of  Congress,  who  anticipated  but  few 
claims  under  the  act  of  1818,  were  sincere,  they  must  have 
been  astounded  at  the  eager  rush  for  pensions  when  the  law 
came  into  operation.  The  country  at  large  was  certainly 
surprised  and  indignant.  By  the  middle  of  September,  the 
number  of  applications  was  so  great  that  it  was  not  possible 
with  every  exertion  to  act  upon  them  as  fast  as  they  came 
in.1  Flagrant  abuses  of  the  act  of  1818  were  the  subject  of 
severe  comment  in  the  newspapers  of  the  time.2  Men  of 
means  were  charged  with  having  made  themselves  out  to  be 
paupers  in  order  to  receive  the  benefits  of  the  act,  and  others 
were  said  to  have  deposited  the  whole  amount  of  their  pen- 
sions in  savings  banks.  The  American  people  did  not  relish 
an  increase  of  the  annual  pension  expenditure  from  two  or 
three  hundred  thousand  dollars  to  two  or  three  millions.  In 
Connecticut,  so  great  was  the  popular  indignation  at  pension 
frauds  that  a  meeting  was  held  "  to  ascertain  the  names  of 
the  pensioners,  and  cause  those  to  be  erased  from  the  list,  if 
possible,  who  should  not  receive  the  public  money,  meant  to 
be  distributed  only  to  the  needy  and  destitute."3 

At  the  first  session  of  the  Sixteenth  Congress,  in  Decem- 
ber, 1819,  the  question  of  pension  frauds  demanded  and  re- 
ceived attention.  The  repeal  of  the  act  of  1818  found  some 
advocates,  but  this  was  deemed  inexpedient.  Secretary 
Calhoun  admitted  that,  in  spite  of  every  precaution,  the  War 
Department  had  probably  been  imposed  upon  to  a  consider- 
able extent  as  to  the  circumstances  of  claimants.  His  re- 
ports also  showed  that,  in  the  number  of  pensioners  under 
the  law,  the  leading  states  were  as  follows :  New  York,  Mass- 
achusetts, District  of  Maine,  Connecticut,  Vermont,  New 

1  Niks'  Register,  xv,  63. 

1  Ibid.,  xvii,  99.     Contains  extracts  from  various  newspapers. 

3  Ibid.,  xvii,  321. 


Hampshire  and  Pennsylvania.  The  entire  absence  of 
Southern  States  from  this  list  is  noticeable.1 

Public  indignation  at  exposures  of  fraud  led  Congress  to 
enact  remedial  legislation  in  the  act  of  May  i,  i82O.2  This 
required  pensioners  under  the  act  of  1818,  and  also  all  who 
should  thereafter  apply  for  pensions  under  that  law,  to  sub- 
mit sworn  schedules  of  their  whole  estate  and  income,  ex- 
clusive of  necessary  clothing  and  bedding.  They  were  also 
required  to  take  oath  that  they  had  not  disposed  of  any  part 
of  their  property  with  the  intention  of  bringing  themselves 
within  the  provisions  of  the  law,  and  that  they  had  not  in 
person  or  in  trust  property  or  income  of  any  kind  other  than 
that  shown  in  the  schedules  subscribed  by  them.  The  Sec- 
retary of  War  was  authorized  to  strike  from  the  list  of  pen- 
sioners those  persons,  who,  in  his  opinion,  were  not  in  such 
indigent  circumstances  as  to  be  unable  to  support  themselves 
without  the  assistance  of  their  country.  Revolutionary  in- 
valid pensioners,  who  had  relinquished  their  pensions  in 
order  to  avail  themselves  of  the  act  of  1818,  and  who,  by 
virtue  of  this  supplementary  act,  might  be  stricken  from  the 
pension  list,  were  to  be  restored  to  the  pensions  re- 

The  act  of  1820  caused  the  names  of  thousands  of  pen- 
sioners to  be  stricken  from  the  rolls.  Many  of  those  who 
applied  for  continuance  suffered  a  rejection  of  their  claims, 
and  others,  without  hope  of  favorable  action,  failed  to  exhibit 
the  required  schedules,  and  were  consequently  dropped. 
The  fact  that  there  had  been  great  frauds  and  impositions  on 
the  generosity  of  the  Government  was  clearly  established.3 

Secretary  Calhoun  made  a  report  to  the  Senate,  in  Feb- 
ruary, 1823,  on  the  operation  of  the  acts  of  March  18,  1818, 

1  See  American  State  Papers,  Claims,  682-684,  703-704. 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  iii,  569. 

3  Regarding  execution  of  Act  of  1820,  see  Niles'  Register,  xix,  243. 

257]  REVOLUTIONARY,  1789-1878  39 

and  May  I,  1820.'  The  total  number  of  persons  whose 
claims  had  been  admitted  under  both  laws  was  18,880,  and 
of  these  12,331  were  on  the  rolls  on  September  4,  1822. 
The  remainder  had  for  the  most  part  been  removed  by  the 
operation  of  the  act  of  i82O.2  "  In  1818,  the  sum  of  $104,- 
900.85  was  paid  to  pensioners  under  the  act  of  that  year;  in 
1819,  $1,811,328.96;  in  1820,  the  sum  paid  was  only  $1,- 
373,849.41,  the  list  of  pensioners  having  been  reduced  by 
the  operation  of  the  act  of  1st  May,  1820;  in  1821,  the  sum 
of  $1,200,000  was  paid,  and,  in  the  year  1822,  the  sum  of 
$1,833,936.30."  The  apparent  increase  in  1822  was  due  to 
the  fact  that  a  deficiency  of  $451,836  for  the  previous  year 
was  included.  A  greater  number  having  applied  for  pen- 
sions in  1821  than  had  been  anticipated,  the  estimates  for 
that  year  had  proved  very  deficient,  and  the  amount  was  made 
up  in  the  next  year's  appropriation. 

By  the  act  of  March  I,  1823,  Congress  provided  for  the 
restoration  to  the  pension  list  of  those  persons  who  had 
been  dropped  on  account  of  the  evidence  afforded  by  their 
schedules  of  property,  but  had  since  become  so  reduced  in 
circumstances  as  to  need  a  pension. 3  The  practical  effect  of 
this  measure  was  to  return  to  the  pension  list  a  large  number 
of  those  persons  whom  the  act  of  1820  had  removed. 

The  pension  business  had  now  become  so  great  that  Con- 
gress finally  abandoned  the  attempt  to  participate  in  the  de- 
tailed administration  of  general  laws.  The  fourth  section  of 
an  act  of  March  3,  i8i9,4  gave  the  Secretary  of  War  power 
to  place  persons  entitled  to  invalid  pensions  under  the  act  of 
April  10,  1806,  and  under  the  fourth  section  of  the  act  of 
April  25,  1808,  upon  the  pension  list  without  reporting  to 

1  American  State  Papers,  Claims,  885. 
3  There  were,  of  course,  some  removals  caused  by  death. 

8  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  iii,  782.  Found  in  statutes  among  acts  of  March  3, 
1823.  *  Ibid.,  iii,  526. 


Congress  for  final  action.  As  to  service  pensions,  this  power 
had  already  been  conferred  upon  the  Secretary  by  the  orig- 
inal terms  of  the  act  of  1818.  In  the  period  during  which 
it  exercised  the  power  of  final  action,  Congress  had  usually 
been  guided  by  the  recommendations  of  the  Secretary  of 

For  a  few  years,  there  was  no  further  Revolutionary  pen- 
sion legislation  of  importance.  But  soon  the  troublesome 
question  of  the  claims  of  the  Revolutionary  officers,  who 
had  been  entitled  to  half  pay  for  life  under  the  resolution  of 
October  21,  1780,  came  up  for  consideration.  The  survi- 
vors were  not  satisfied  with  the  results  of  the  commutation 
and  settlement  of  their  half  pay,  and,  at  intervals  from  1810 
to  1827,  they  besought  Congress  for  an  allowance  from  the 
National  Treasury.  President  John  Quincy  Adams,  in  his 
message  of  December,  1827,  recommended  to  the  considera- 
tion of  Congress  "  the  debt,  rather  of  justice  than  gratitude, 
to  the  surviving  warriors  of  the  Revolutionary  War."1 
Congress  took  action  in  the  passage  of  the  law  of  May  15, 

This  act  granted  full  pay  for  life,  beginning  with  March  3, 
1826,  to  the  surviving  Revolutionary  officers  in  the  Continen- 
tal line,  who  had  been  entitled  to  half  pay  for  life  by  the 
resolution  of  October  21,  1780.  The  same  allowance  was 
also  made  for  non-commissioned  officers  and  soldiers,  who 
enlisted  for  the  war  and  served  until  its  end,  and  thereby  be- 
came entitled  to  receive  the  reward  of  eighty  dollars  prom- 
ised by  the  resolution  of  May  15,  1778.  The  beneficiaries 
under  this  act  were  required  to  give  up  other  pensions  which 
they  might  be  receiving  under  the  laws  of  the  United  States, 
but,  under  later  amendments,  were  permitted  to  retain  in- 
valid pensions.  The  act  of  1828  was  not  at  first  regarded  as 

1  House  Journal,  1st  Sess.,  2Oth  Cong.,  23.         2  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  iv,  269. 

259]  REVOLUTIONARY,  1789-1878  41 

an  ordinary  pension  law,  and  it  was  executed  by  the  Secre- 
tary of  the  Treasury.  In  1835  this  function  was  transferred 
to  the  Secretary  of  War.  At  the  end  of  1828,  about  850 
persons  had  been  allowed  the  full  pay  for  life.1 

About  1830,  the  rapid  extinction  of  the  public  debt 
promised  soon  to  leave  the  United  States  with  a  considerable 
annual  surplus  in  the  Treasury.  There  was  great  opposition 
to  a  reduction  in  existing  tariff  rates,  and,  under  the  circum- 
stances, proposals  were  made  to  spend  more  money  for  pen- 
sions. President  Jackson,  in  his  message  of  December, 
1829,  suggested  the  extension  of  the  benefits  of  the  pension 
laws  to  all  Revolutionary  soldiers  who  were  unable  to  main- 
tain themselves  in  comfort.2 

In  accordance  with  Jackson's  suggestion,  there  was  a 
prompt  movement  in  Congress  to  widen  the  scope  of  the 
pension  laws.  One  bill,  introduced  for  this  purpose,  passed 
the  House,  but  was  indefinitely  postponed  in  the  Senate. 
In  debate  upon  this  measure,  Senator  Hayne  of  South  Caro- 
lina, on  April  29,  1830,  made  a  notable  speech  in  which  he 
reviewed  the  course  of  pension  legislation  to  that  time.3 

While  not  entirely  accurate  in  details,  he  showed  a  good 
knowledge  of  the  general  subject.  He  opposed  the  at- 
tempt to  admit  to  the  company  of  the  war-worn  veterans  of 
the  Revolution  a  host,  many  of  whom  had  never  even  seen 
an  enemy,  "  mere  sunshine  and  holiday  soldiers,  the  hang- 
ers-on of  the  camp,  men  of  straw,  substitutes,  who  never  en- 
listed until  after  the  preliminaries  of  peace  were  signed." 
Down  to  the  year  1818,  as  he  pointed  out,  the  national  pen- 
sion system  had  been  based  upon  the  principle  of  disability. 
The  law  of  that  year  had  abandoned  this  principle,  and 
made  service  and  poverty  the  basis  of  pensions.  The  atten- 

1  Report  of  Sec V  of  Treasury,  State  Papers,  2d  Sess.,  2Oth  Cong.,  ii,  no.  68. 

2  Senate  Journal,  ist  Sess.,  2ist  Cong.,  1829-1830,  17. 

3  Benton's  Debates,  x,  547-555. 

42  MI  LI  TAR  Y  PENSION  LE  GISLA  TION  [  2  60 

tion  of  the  Senate  was  called  to  the  circumstances  attending 
the  passage  of  the  act  of  1818,  and  to  the  resulting  scandal 
and  fraud.  With  the  experience  afforded  by  that  law  in 
mind,  the  senator  urged  that  it  was  folly  to  open  a  wide  door 
to  similar  and  greater  evils. 

In  the  latter  part  of  his  speech,  Hayne  asserted  that  there 
was  an  intimate  connection  between  the  proposed  increase  of 
pension  expenditures  and  the  maintenance  of  a  protective 
tariff  policy.  He  said  : 

"  I  consider  this  bill  as  a  branch  of  a  great  system,  calculated  and 
intended  to  creatj  a  permanent  charge  upon  the  Treasury,  with  a 
view  to  delay  the  payment  of  the  public  debt,  and  to  postpone,  in- 
definitely, the  claims  of  the  people  for  a  reduction  of  taxes,  when 
the  debt  shall  be  finally  extinguished.  It  is  an  important  link  in 
the  chain  by  which  th?  American  system  party  hope  to  bind  the 
people,  now  and  forever,  to  the  payment  of  the  enormous  duties 
deemed  necessary  for  the  protection  of  domestic  manufactures." 

Senator  Hayne  thought  schemes  for  internal  improve- 
ment, for  colonization,  education,  distribution  of  surplus 
revenue,  and  many  others  "  all  admirably  calculated  to  pro- 
mote the  great  end — the  absorption  of  the  public  revenue.'1 

"But,"  said  he,  4<of  all  the  measures  devised  for  this  purpose,  this 
grand  pension  system,  got  up  last  year,  and  revived  during  the 
present  session,  is  by  far  the  most  specious,  the  most  ingeniously 
contrived,  and  the  best  calculated  for  the  accomplishment  of  the 
object.  Here  gentlemen  are  supplied  with  a  fine  topic  for  declama- 
tion. '  Gratitude  for  Revolutionary  services  !'  '  the  claims  of  the 
poor  soldiers  !' — these  are  the  popular  topics  which  it  is  imagined 
will  carry  away  the  feelings  of  the  people,  and  reconcile  them  to  a 
measure  which  must  unquestionably  establish  a  permanent  charge 
upon  the  Treasury  to  an  enormous  amount,  and  thereby  furnish  a 
plausible  excuse  for  keeping  up  the  system  of  high  duties." 

Under  the  existing  tariff  arrangements,  Hayne  claimed 
that  the  South  was  paying  the  greater  portion  of  the  duties 
which  supplied  the  Treasury,  and  that  the  public  money 


REVOLUTIONARY,  1789-1878  43 

was  expended  chiefly  in  the  North.  This  was  nowhere  bet- 
ter illustrated  than  in  the  pension  system.  From  official  re- 
ports, he  stated  that  the  whole  amount  of  appropriations 
for  pensions  under  the  act  of  1818  had  been  about  $14,- 
175,000,  and  that  there  had  been  paid  to  all  other  pen- 
sioners from  the  beginning  of  the  government,  $6,360,000, 
making  a  total  of  $20,535,000.  Of  the  sixteen  thousand 
pensioners  on  the  roll  at  the  last  report,  about  twelve 
thousand  resided  in  the  ten  States  north  of  Maryland,  and 
four  thousand  in  the  Southern  and  Western  States.  From 
this  rough  basis,  Hayne  drew  the  conclusion  that  about  fif- 
teen of  the  twenty  millions  paid  to  pensioners  had  gone 
North,  and  about  five  millions  to  the  South  and  West.  He 
thought  an  extension  of  the  pension  system  would  be  likely 
to  operate  in  the  same  way,  and,  when  this  system  degen- 
erated into  a  mere  scheme  for  the  distribution  of  the  public 
money,  the  South  had  a  right  to  complain  of  its  gross  in- 

The  opposition  to  an  extension  of  the  pension  laws,  so 
ably  represented  by  Hayne,  prevailed  in  the  Twenty-First 
Congress,  but  in  the  next  Congress  the  matter  came  up 
again,  and  pension  bills  were  introduced  into  House  and 
Senate.  The  House  bill  was  extravagantly  liberal.  Mr. 
Davis  of  South  Carolina  said  that  its  passage  would  be  a 
signal  that  would  "  wake  up  from  the  slumbers  of  the  grave 
almost  as  many  dead  militia  as  the  last  trumpet;  not 
harmless  ghosts  and  spectres,  but  substantial  pensioners, 
tax  receivers,  and  consumers  of  the  substance  of  the  people."  x 
Mr.  Johnston  of  Virginia  pronounced  it  not  an  "  old  soldier's 
bill,"  but  rather  "  a  waste  dam  to  let  off  surplus  revenue." 
This  measure  passed  the  House  by  an  overwhelming 
majority,  but  the  Senate  preferred  to  consider  its  own  bill. 
This  was  less  extravagant  than  that  of  the  House,  and  was 

1  Congressional  Debates,  Vol.  viii,  Part  ii,  2434. 

t ',% 

44  MILITAR  Y  PENSION  LE  G1SLA  TION  [  2  62 

in  form  supplementary  to  the  act  of  1828.  Hayne  led  a 
vigorous  but  unsuccessful  opposition.  Senator  Foot,  who 
was  in  charge  of  the  bill,  estimated  that  it  would  produce 
an  annual  charge  on  the  Treasury  not  to  exceed  $450,000. 
The  Senate's  measure  was  passed,  accepted  by  the  House, 
and  was  approved  by  the  President  on  June  7,  1832.* 

This  is  probably  the  most  important  act  passed  on  ac- 
count of  Revolutionary  services.  It  granted  to  all  who  had 
completed,  at  one  or  more  terms,  a  total  service  of  two 
years  during  the  Revolutionary  War,  whether  in  Continental 
or  State  troops,  volunteers  or  militia,  or  in  the  navy,  and 
who  were  not  entitled  to  any  benefit  under  the  act  of  May 
15,  1828,  full  pay  for  life  according  to  rank,  not  to  exceed 
a  captain's  pay,  to  commence  from  March  4,  1831.  All  who 
had  completed  a  total  sendee  of  not  less  than  six  months 
were  to  receive  for  life  an  annuity  bearing  the  same  propor- 
tion to  the  amount  granted  those  who  had  served  two 
years,  as  did  the  terms  of  service  to  the  full  two  years. 
Every  one  who  received  the  benefits  of  this  law  was  required 
to  relinquish  any  pension  received  by  him  under  any  other 
Revolutionary  pension  act,  but  the  amendment  of  February 
19,  1833,  excepted  invalid  pensioners  from  the  operation  of 
this  provision. 

The  Secretary  of  the  Treasury  was  originally  charged  with 
the  execution  of  the  act  of  1832,  but  this  duty  was  trans- 
ferred to  the  Secretary  of  War  by  the  resolution  of  June  28, 
1832.  Evidence  in  support  of  claims  was  taken  in  the  form 
of  declarations  upon  oath  before  a  court  of  record  in  the 
county  where  the  applicant  resided.  In  the  case  of  the 
regular  or  Continental  troops,  the  evidence  could  be  com- 
pared with  the  muster  rolls  in  the  possession  of  the  War 
Department,  but,  in  the  case  of  the  State  troops,  volunteers 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  iv,  529. 

263]  REVOLUTIONARY,  1789-1878  45 

and  militia,  the  Department  possessed  no  rolls  except  of  the 
State  troops  of  Virginia  and  the  militia  of  New  Hampshire. 

This  lack  of  rolls  necessitated,  in  the  consideration  of  a 
large  number  of  applications,  entire  reliance  upon  the  sworn 
declarations  of  the  claimant  and  his  witnesses,  except  in  so 
far  as  his  narrative  of  service  could  be  compared  with  the 
known  events  of  the  period  of  the  alleged  service.  Much 
importance  was  attached  to  traditionary  evidence,  such  as  a 
general  belief  in  the  neighborhood  that  the  claimant  had 
been  a  Revolutionary  soldier.  This  was  required  to  be 
established  by  the  evidence  of  the  nearest  clergyman  and 
other  persons  of  character  and  standing  in  the  community.1 

These  provisions  were  extremely  liable  to  abuse,  and 
frauds  soon  came  to  light  in  various  sections  of  the  country. 
The  scandal  of  the  act  of  1818  was  repeated.  There  was 
such  a  rush  of  applicants  that  it  was  thought  incredible  that 
there  should  be  so  many  Revolutionary  soldiers  alive.  The 
annual  charge  on  the  Treasury,  instead  of  being  $450,000,  as 
had  been  estimated  in  the  Senate,  was  four  or  five  times  that 
amount.  The  Senate  ordered  the  publication  of  the  list  of 
pensioners,  classified  by  States  and  counties,  and  the  trans- 
mission of  each  State's  list  to  its  courts  of  record.2  Thought- 
ful men  began  to  question  the  moral  and  political  effect  of 
the  whole  pension  system  of  the  United  States.  Upon  a 
resolution  to  extend  the  law  of  1832  to  those  who  had  fought 
in  Indian  wars,  Mr.  Bouldin  of  Virginia  said  in  the  House  of 
Representatives,  on  December  27,  1833,  that  "the  practical 
effects  of  the  system  had  been  to  discourage  private  industry, 
and  lead  a  large  portion  of  the  people  of  the  United  States 
to  look  to  the  Treasury  as  the  unfailing  spring  from  which 
they  were  to  receive  every  good.  The  poor,  instead  of  being 

1  For  full  regulations  under  the  Act  of  1832,  see  Executive  Documents^  2d  Sess., 
25th  Cong.,  1837-1838,  v,  no.  118,  84-91. 

a  Senate  Journal,  1st  Sess.,  23d  Cong.,  1833-1834,  404. 


relieved  in  their  own  neighborhoods,  were  pensioned  on  the 
United  States."  x 

In  the  fall  of  1834,  most  startling  frauds  under  the  act  of 
1832  came  to  light.  Numerous  indictments  for  perjury  and 
forgery  in  the  prosecution  of  pension  claims  were  found  at 
the  session  of  the  federal  court  in  western  Virginia,  and  many 
of  the  accused  were  said  to  have  fled  to  Texas.2  In  Vermont, 
the  Government  was  swindled  out  of  an  amount  estimated  at 
from  forty,  to  two  or  three  hundred  thousand  dollars  through 
payments  to  fictitious  pensioners.3  Here  the  frauds  were 
perpetrated  by  Robert  Temple,  formerly  pension  agent, 
president  of  the  Bank  of  Rutland,  and  a  man  of  great  wealth 
and  prominence  in  the  State.  Alarmed  at  the  prospective 
publication  of  the  pension  list,  he  went  to  Washington,  and 
attempted  to  bribe  a  clerk  to  alter  the  list  in  order  to  con- 
ceal his  crimes.  The  clerk  disclosed  the  affair  to  his  supe- 
riors, and  steps  were  taken  to  secure  further  evidence  in  the 
matter.  Temple,  learning  that  he  was  about  to  be  arrested, 
committed  suicide  at  his  home  in  Vermont.  Other  frauds 
were  discovered  in  Kentucky  and  New  York. 

These  disclosures  received  the  attention  of  the  Commis- 
sioner of  Pensions  in  his  annual  report  presented  on  Novem- 
ber 7,  i834.4  He  said  the  most  daring  and  iniquitous  frauds 
had  been  discovered  to  have  been  perpetrated  by  men  of 
high  standing  in  society,  whose  official  stations  and  respecta- 
bility placed  them  far  above  suspicion.  In  every  such  case 
which  had  come  to  the  knowledge  of  the  Department,  steps 
had  been  taken  to  punish  the  offenders.  Prosecutions,  in 
some  instances,  had  been  successful,  and  terminated  in  the 
confinement  of  the  criminals  in  State  prisons.  In  other 

1  Cong.  Debates,  vol.x,  Part  ii,  1833-1834,  2245. 
*  Nile's  Register,  xlvii,  97,  147. 

3  Ibid.,  105-106.     (Extracts  from  several  current  newspapers.) 

4  Executive  Documents,  2d  Sess.,  23rd  Cong.,  1834-1835,  i,  no.  2,  273-280. 

265]  REVOLUTIONARY,  1789-1878  47 

cases,  they  had  fled  from  justice.  Wherever  there  was  a 
prospect  of  recovering  money  improperly  paid,  a  suit  had 
been  commenced. 

The  following  extract  from  the  Commissioner's  report 
shows  the  bold  character  of  the  frauds : 

"It  has  been  ascertained  that  papers  have  been  presented  at  this 
Department  purporting  to  contain  proof  of  Revolutionary  service, 
taken  in  open  court,  bearing  the  official  seal  of  the  clerk  of  the 
court,  and  duly  certified  by  him,  when,  in  fact,  the  persons  in  whose 
behalf  the  claims  were  made,  never  had  any  but  an  imaginary  exist- 
ence. In  some  instances,  the  claims  have  been  admitted,  and  money 
has  been  paid.  In  other  cases,  money  has  been  paid  to  a  period  after 
the  time  when  the  pensioners  died ;  and  this  last  mentioned  descrip- 
tion of  fraud  was  effected  by  means  of  falsifying  the  certificates  of 
a  clerk  of  a  court  of  record." 

After  giving  a  detailed  description  of  the  way  in  which  the 
frauds  were  in  some  particular  instances  perpetrated,  the 
Commissioner  recommended  the  appointment  of  officers  in 
each  State  and  territory  "  for  the  purpose  of  examining  in 
in  person  all  pensioners  and  applicants  for  pensions."  He 
reported  that  there  were  27,978  pensioners  on  the  rolls  under 
the  act  of  1832,  and  that  the  amount  sent  to  agents  in  1834 
for  payments  under  this  act  was  about  $2,325,000.  The 
whole  national  pension  roll  contained  about  43,000  names. 

The  pension  frauds  were  further  discussed  in  the  annual 
report  of  the  Secretary  of  War,1  and  in  the  President's  mes- 
sage of  December,  1834."  Secretary  Cass  pointed  out  that, 
as  these  disclosures  had  been  the  result  of  accident,  it  was 
impossible  to  judge  to  what  extent  frauds  might  have  been 
committed.  President  Jackson  recommended  an  actual  in- 
spection of  the  pensioners  in  each  State.  The  object  of  this 
inspection  should  be  twofold,  to  look  into  the  original  justice 

1  Executive  Documents,  2d  Sess.,  23d  Cong.,  1834-1835,!,  no.  2,  36-38. 
»/«</.,  18-19. 

4 8  MIUTAR  Y  PENSION  LE GISLA  7 ION  [  2  66 

of  the  claims,  and  to  ascertain,  in  all  cases,  whether  the 
claimant  was  living,  and  this  by  actual  personal  inspection. 
Notwithstanding  these  recommendations,  Congress  took  no 
measures  to  bring  about  a  reform  of  the  pension  system. 

The  expenditures  of  the  United  States  for  Revolutionary 
and  other  pensions,  from  the  beginning  of  the  Federal  Govern- 
ment to  September  30,  1834,  are  shown  by  a  report  of  the 
Secretary  of  the  Treasury  to  have  been  something  over 
$33,ioo,ooo.1  Up  to  the  close  of  1833,  the  amount  was 
about  $29,600,000.  The  States  which  received  most  largely 
of  this  latter  amount  rank  as  follows :  New  York,  $6, 1 86,000 : 
Massachusetts,  $3,331,000;  Pennsylvania,  $2,644,000; 
Maine,  $2,115,000;  Connecticut,  $1,942,000;  Vermont,  $i,- 
923,000;  New  Hampshire,  $1,697,000,  and  Virginia,  $i,- 
649,000.  A  study  of  these  figures  will  show  why  the  most 
earnest  opposition  to  lavish  pension  laws  came  from  the 

Thus  far  in  our  study  of  Revolutionary  pension  legislation, 
we  have  found  scarcely  any  provision  for  the  widows  or 
children  of  deceased  soldiers.  By  the  resolution  of  August 
24,  1780,  half  pay  for  seven  years  was  granted  to  the 
widows  or  orphans  of  such  Revolutionary  officers  as  had 
died  or  should  die  in  the  service,  but  the  widows  of  non- 
commissioned officers  and  soldiers  were  not  included  in  the 
benefits  of  this  measure.  The  resolution  expired  before  the 
inauguration  of  the  Federal  Government,  but  was  renewed 
for  two  years  by  the  act  of  March  23,  I792.3 

With  the  exception  of  sundry  provisions  for  the  payment 
of  pension  money,  accrued  and  unpaid  at  the  death  of  pen- 
sioners, to  their  widows,  children  or  legal  representatives, 
there  was  no  general  legislation  for  the  benefit  of  the  widows 
of  Revolutionary  officers  or  soldiers  from  1792  to  1836.  At 

1  Executive  Documents,  2d  Sess.,  23d  Cong.,  1834-1835,  iii,  no.  89,  32. 
•  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  i,  243. 

267]  REVOLUTIONARY,  1789-1878      .  49 

intervals,  propositions  were  made  for  the  granting  of  pen- 
sions to  Revolutionary  widows,  but  none  were  successful 
until  the  passage  of  the  act  of  July  4,  1836.'  The  third 
section  of  this  law  provided  that  if  any  Revolutionary  soldier, 
who  would  have  been  entitled  to  a  pension  under  the  act  of 
June  7,  1832,  had  died,  leaving  a  widow  whose  marriage 
took  place  before  the  expiration  of  his  last  period  of  service, 
such  widow,  so  long  as  she  remained  unmarried,  should  be 
entitled  to  receive  the  pension  which  might  have  been  al- 
lowed to  her  husband,  if  living  at  the  time  the  act  was 
passed.  In  applications  under  this  act,  the  Secretary  of  War 
was  to  adopt  such  forms  of  evidence  as  the  President  should 

The  act  of  1836  was  the  first  of  a  long  series  of  laws  for 
the  benefit  of  Revolutionary  widows.  These  grew  more  and 
more  liberal  as  the  years  passed  by.  To  follow  the  intrica- 
cies of  this  legislation  might  involve  us  in  some  confusion. 
We  may  say,  in  short,  that  provision  was  first  made  for  those 
widows  who  married  during  the  Revolution,  then  for  those  who 
married  prior  to  1794,  later  for  those  who  married  prior  to 
1800,  and  finally  for  all  Revolutionary  widows,  regardless  of 
the  date  of  marriage.2  The  pensions  granted  to  widows 
were  to  continue  during  widowhood,  and,  in  amount,  were 
the  same  as  those  to  which  their  husbands  would  have  been 
entitled  under  the  existing  laws,  if  living. 

There  yet  remain  to  be  considered  a  few  minor  Revolu- 
tionary pension  measures.  The  act  of  April  I,  1864,  granted 
one  hundred  dollars  additional  annual  pension  to  each  of  the 
surviving  soldiers  of  the  Revolution  then  on  the  pension 
rolls.3  By  November  of  that  year  seven  of  the  number  who 
were  the  intended  recipients  of  this  special  bounty  had  died 
at  an  average  age  of  about  one  hundred  years,  and  but  five 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  v,  127. 

2  Ibid.,  x,  154  and  616.  •  Ibid.,  xiii,  39. 


were  still  living.1  For  the  benefit  of  these  five,  Congress 
passed  the  private  act  of  February  27,  1865,  granting  each 
of  them  a  gratuity  of  three  hundred  dollars  annually  during 
his  natural  life,  in  addition  to  the  pensions  already  being 
paid  them  according  to  law.2 

By  June  30,  1867,  all  the  Revolutionary  soldiers  on  the 
pension  rolls  had  died,  but,  during  the  following  fiscal  year, 
two  other  Revolutionary  soldiers  were  pensioned  by  special 
act  at  $500  per  annum.  Daniel  F.  Bakeman,  the  last  survi- 
vor, died  on  April  5,  1869.  On  June  30,  1869,  the  names  of 
887  Revolutionary  widows  were  still  borne  on  the  rolls,  al- 
though the  actual  number  living  was  without  doubt  some- 
what less  on  account  of  unreported  deaths.3  Some  addi- 
tional provisions  for  Revolutionary  widows  were  made  in  acts 
of  February  18,  1867,  July  27,  1868,  and  March  9,  1878,  but 
these  were  entirely  unimportant  in  their  results.4 

From  the  first  resolution  of  August,  1776,  to  the  legisla- 
tion of  March,  1878,  we  have  reviewed  over  a  century  of 
Revolutionary  pension  laws.  In  the  history  of  those  laws, 
there  has  been  a  constant  development  of  new  and  more  lib- 
eral principles.  At  first,  invalid  pension  provisions  were 
made.  These  were  broadened  and  extended  until  the  law  of 
1818  introduced  a  new  principle  by  granting  pensions  based 
on  service  and  indigence.  Then  came  the  pure  service  pen- 
sion law  of  1832.  Later,  widows'  pensions  were  granted  to 
those  who  had  married  during  the  progress  of  the  war.  As 
more  liberal  tendencies  prevailed,  the  time  before  which  mar- 
riage must  have  occurred  was  extended  to  1794,  then  to 
1800,  and  finally  all  limitation  was  abolished.  With  respect 
to  this  alone  of  our  wars,  the  complete  effects  of  all  pension 

1  Report  of  Commissioner  of  Pensions,  1864. 

*  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xiii,  597. 

•See  Reports  of  the  Commissioner  of  Pensions,  1867,  1868,  1869. 

4  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xiv,  566;   xv.  235;  xx,  27. 

269]  RE  VOL  UTI ONAR  y> 

legislation  have  been  practically  realized.  The  report  of 
Commissioner  of  Pensions  J.  H.  Baker  for  1874  gives  us 
statistics  upon  which  may  be  based  a  summary  of  these 

In  this  report  the  number  of  soldiers  serving  in  the  Rev- 
olutionary War  is  placed  at  289,715,  although,  considering 
the  inadequacy  of  the  records,  this  estimate  cannot  be  more 
than  approximately  correct.  Of  these,  the  number  pen- 
sioned for  service  was  57,623,  of  whom  20,485  were  pen- 
sioned under  the  act  of  1818,  1,200  under  the  act  of  1828, 
33,425  under  the  act  of  1832,  and  the  remainder  under 
minor  and  special  acts.  The  manner  of  keeping  the  records 
during  the  early  years  of  the  Federal  Government  makes  it 
impossible  to  state  the  number  of  Revolutionary  soldiers  who 
were  granted  invalid  pensions  for  actual  disability.  There 
were  probably  not  more  than  two  or  three  thousand  of  such 
persons.  The  entire  number  of  Revolutionary  soldiers  pen- 
sioned by  the  Federal  Government  is  probably  not  far 
from  60,000.  The  total  amount  of  pensions  paid  to  such 
soldiers  from  1818  to  1869,  when  the  last  survivor  died,  was 
$46,178,000.  The  amount  paid  to  Revolutionary  invalids 
prior  to  1818  was  about  $2,500,000,  so  that  the  total  pay- 
ments of  pensions  to  Revolutionary  soldiers  may  be  said  to 
roughly  approximate  $49,000,000. 

Under  the  general  laws  from  July  4,  1836,  to  June  30, 
1874,  there  were  pensioned  39,295  Revolutionary  widows. 
Of  these,  5»44^  were  married  to  the  deceased  soldier  prior 
to  the  termination  of  the  war,  28,837  prior  to  1794,  1,242 
between  1794  and  1800,  and  3,750  after  1800.  If  we  take 
into  consideration  the  widows  of  Revolutionary  officers  who 

lrThe  Reports  of  the  Commissioners  of  Pensions  are  published  in  several  forms 
and  with  varying  pagination.  This  reference  may  be  found  in  the  House  Execu- 
tive Documents,  2&  Sess.,43rd  Cong.,  1874-1875,  Report  of  the  Secretary  of  the 
Interior,  i,  667-668. 


received  the  seven  years'  half  pay,  the  widows  who  were 
pensioned  by  special  acts,  and  the  few  widows  pensioned 
after  1874,  the  entire  number  of  Revolutionary  widows  pen- 
sioned may  be  estimated  at  over  40,000.  The  total  amount 
paid  to  these  widows  from  1836  to  1874  was  $19,604,000. 
Making  allowance  for  the  early  half  pay  to  officers'  widows, 
and  for  the  payments  since  1874,  the  total  payments  to 
Revolutionary  widows  amount  to  about  $20,000,000.  Thus 
the  total  cost  to  the  Federal  Government  for  pensions  to  sol- 
diers of  the  Revolution  and  their  widows  has  been  about 
$69,000,000,  exclusive  of  the  cost  of  the  administration  of 
the  pension  laws.  We  are  now  spending  more  than  twice 
that  amount  every  year  for  pensions  to  the  soldiers  of  the 
Civil  War  and  their  dependent  relatives. 

In  considering  the  statistics  of  the  pension  cost  of  the 
Revolutionary  War,  it  must  be  remembered  that  service 
pensions  were  not  granted  until  thirty-five  years  after  the 
close  of  the  war,  that  widows'  pensions  were  practically  not 
granted  until  fifty-three  years  after  the  close  of  the  war,  that 
the  invalid  pension  provisions  were  quite  restricted,  that 
there  were  no  pensions  to  dependent  fathers,  mothers,  sis- 
ters and  brothers,  and  that  there  were  pensioned  by  general 
law  only  a  few  orphan  children  of  officers,  and  by  special 
act,  a  few  aged  daughters  of  soldiers.  Under  our  present 
pension  system  the  cost  of  a  war  of  equal  magnitude  would 
be  vastly  greater.  Indeed,  we  may  confidently  expect  that 
the  cost  of  paying  pensions  on  account  of  our  recent  brief 
War  with  Spain  will,  in  a  very  few  years,  amount  to  more 
than  the  cost  of  executing  the  Revolutionary  pension  laws 
of  over  a  century. 



THE  provisions  of  national  pension  legislation  enacted  on 
account  of  military  services  rendered  between  1789  and 
1861  may  be  conveniently  classified  under  five  headings. 
They  were  intended  to  benefit  ( I )  the  regular  army  and  mis- 
cellaneous bodies  of  militia  and  volunteers,  (2)  those  who 
served  on  board  vessels  of  the  navy  and  privateers,  (3)  the 
soldiers  of  the  War  of  1812,  (4)  of  the  various  Indian  Wars, 
and  (5)  of  the  Mexican  War.  These  classes,  however,  can- 
not be  sharply  differentiated.  Although  there  was  a  dis- 
tinct body  of  navy  pension  legislation,  which  requires  a 
separate  treatment,  the  benefits  of  that  legislation  were  very 
largely  conferred  on  sailors  who  served  in  the  War  of  1812. 
So  also  the  pension  provisions  for  the  soldiers  of  the  regular 
army  had  force  while  they  were  serving  in  the  War  of  1812, 
the  Mexican  War  and  the  Indian  wars,  except  in  so  far  as 
those  provisions  were  superseded  by  particular  legislation 
enacted  for  the  war  in  question.  Some  of  the  laws,  which 
we  are  to  consider  in  this  chapter,  are  of  quite  recent  date, 
but  they  have  reference  to  services  rendered  prior  to  1861. 

I.  Provisions  for  the  Regular  Army  and  Volunteers 
Beginning  with  the  act  of  April  30,  1790,  to  regulate  the 
military  establishment  of  the  United  States,  pension  pro- 
visions of  this  class  were  quite  numerous,  but  in  the  aggre- 
gate of  small  importance.  Laws  fixing  the  military  peace 
establishment,  or  raising  volunteers  or  militia  for  various 
purposes,  commonly  included  a  section  dealing  with  the 

271]  53 


matter  of  pensions.  Until  1816,  the  invalid  pension  rate 
for  officers  was  not  to  exceed  one-half  of  the  monthly  pay, 
and  for  non-commissioned  officers  and  privates  not  to  ex- 
ceed five  dollars  per  month.  The  act  of  April  24,  1816, 
however,  increased  the  allowance  for  non-commissioned 
officers  and  privates  to  eight  dollars  per  month,  and  also 
increased  the  rate  for  the  lower  grades  of  commissioned 
officers.1  In  cases  of  partial  disability,  a  proportionate 
allowance  was  made.  For  many  years,  the  only  provision 
for  widows  and  orphans  was  a  grant  of  half  pay  for  five 
years  to  the  widows,  or  children  under  sixteen  years  of  age, 
of  commissioned  officers  in  the  troops  of  the  United  States, 
dying  in  the  service  in  consequence  of  wounds  received. 
These  provisions  were  based  upon  sections  of  the  act  of 

\March  16,  1802,  which  was  the  fundamental  law  for  regular 
army   pensions   until    the  time   of    the  Civil  War.2      After 

>xl86i,  regulars  were  included   under  the  Civil  War  legisla- 

Prior  to  the  Civil  War,  when  bodies  of  militia  or  volun- 
teers were  raised  for  special  service,  the  provisions  of  the  act 
of  1802  were  frequently  extended  tp  such  forces.  In  time 
of  war  the  widows  and  orphans  of  private  soldiers  of  both 
regular  army  and  militia  were  usually  allowed  half  pay  for 
five  years  in  the  same  manner  as  the  widows  and  orphans  of 
commissioned  officers.  Upon  its  expiration,  this  half  pay 
was  often  continued  from  time  to  time.  Eventually,  the  act 
of  June  3,  1858,  granted  to  all  those  surviving  widows  and 
minor  children,  who  had  been  allowed  five  years'  half  pay 
under  the  provisions  of  any  previous  general  law,  a  con- 
tinuance of  such  half  pay,  to  commence  from  the  date  of 
the  last  payment.  This  pension  was  to  be  paid  to  widows 
during  life,  and  where  there  was  no  widow,  or  in  case  of  her 

1  U,  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  Hi,  296.  *  Ibid.,  ii,  132. 

273]  SERVICE  BETWEEN  1789  AND  1861  55 

death  or  remarriage,  to  the  minor  children  while  under  the 
age  of  sixteen  years. 

2.  Navy  and  Privateer  Pension  Funds 
While  pension  laws  in  the  United   States  have  applied,  to 
a  large  extent,  to  army  and  navy  alike,  there  was  developed     / 
early  in  our  history  a  separate  pension  system  applicable  to 
the  navy  alone.     This  was  administered  apart  from  the  gen- 
eral pension  system,  and  requires  a  distinct  treatment.     The 
navy  pension   laws  were  for  the  most  part  concerned  with 
the  formation,  administration  and  use  of  the  funds  known  as 
the  navy  and  privateer  pension  funds. 

From  the  establishment  of  a  naval  armament  in  1791  up 
to  about  1800,  disability  pension  provisions  were  made  for 
the  officers,  marines  and  seamen  of  the  navy  in  the  same 
manner  and  at  the  same  rate  as  for  the  regular  army.  The 
acts  of  March  2,  1799,  and  April  23,  1800,  for  the  govern- 
ment of  the  navy  of  the  United  States,  provided  for  a  navy 
pension  fund,  which  was  to  be  made  up  of  the  Government's 
share  of  money  accruing  from  the  sale  of  prizes  taken  at  sea 
by  vessels  of  the  navy.1  This  fund  was  to  supply  half  pay- 
pensions  for  life,  or  during  disability,  to  all  disabled  officers 
and  men  of  the  navy.  If  it  should  prove  insufficient  for  the 
purpose,  the  public  faith  was  pledged  to  make  up  the  defi- 
ciency. The  fund  was  placed  under  the  management  and 
direction  of  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy,  the  Secretary  of  the 
Treasury  and  the  Secretary  of  War.  These  commissioners 
were  required  to  present  an  annual  report  of  their  operations 
to  Congress. 

It  was  not  until  after  the  outbreak  of  the  War  of  1812 
with  Great  Britain  that  this  fund  became  of  much  import- 
ance. At  the  close  of  1813,  the  annual  outlay  for  pensions 
was  about  $11,300,  and  the  fund  itself  amounted  to  $329, - 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  i,  709;   ii,  53. 



ooo.  It  was  rapidly  increased  by  the  Government's  share  of 
prizes  taken  in  the  existing  war,  and  the  income  of  the  fund 
was  much  in  excess  of  the  demands  upon  it.1 

Prior  to  the  War  of  1812,  only  invalid  pensions  were  paid 
from  the  navy  pension  fund.  By  acts  of  1813  and  1814, 
half  pay  pensions  for  five  years  were  granted  to  widows  and 
orphans  of  those  who  should  die  by  reason  of  wounds  re- 
ceived in  the  line  of  duty  in  the  navy.  Between  1817  and 
1824,  the  same  allowance  was  made  in  cases  where  the  death 
of  the  officer  or  seaman  occurred  "in  consequence  of  disease 
contracted  or  of  casualties  or  injuries  received,  while  in  the 
line  of  duty."  This  provision  produced  too  great  demands 
upon  the  fund  and  was  repealed  in  1824.  As  they  expired 
from  time  to  time,  the  half  pay  pensions  for  five  years  were 
usually  renewed  for  a  like  term.  After  1813,  the  laws  grant- 
ing and  renewing  pensions  to  widows  and  orphans  were  nu- 
merous and  complicated,  but  not  of  sufficient  importance  to 
warrant  a  detailed  account  of  them. 

The  history  of  the  navy  pension  fund  is  not  without  its 
frauds  and  scandals.  In  their  report  for  1815,  the  commis- 
sioners complained  of  the  difficulty  of  collecting  arrearages 
of  prize  money,  and  of  securing  a  punctual  and  faithful  ac- 
countability on  the  part  of  those  officers  who  were  charged 
with  the  prosecution  and  sale  of  prizes.  Congress  soon  after 
passed  the  act  of  April  16,  1816,  which  made  detailed  pro- 
vision for  the  collection  and  payment  into  the  navy  pension 
fund  of  the  Government's  share  of  prize  money,  and  fur- 
nished means  to  enforce  obedience  to  the  law  on  the  part  of 
negligent  or  dishonest  officials.  In  1832  the  Secretary  of 
the  Navy  was  made  sole  manager  of  the  fund.  The  prop- 
erty of  the  fund  was  to  be  in  the  custody  of  the  Treasurer  of 
the  United  States,  and  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy  was  di- 
rected to  invest  the  cash  balance  on  hand  and  all  money  that 

1  American  State  Papers, Naval  Affairs,!,  298,  381-382;   iii,  535. 

275]  SER  VICE  BE  T  WEEN  I78<?  AND  l8()I  5  7 

might  arise  to  the  fund  in  stock  of  the  bank  of  the  United 

At  this  point  we  may  consider  some  statistics  of  the  man- 
agement and  operations  of  the  fund  from  the  close  of  1813 
down  to  January  i,  1832.  The  amount  of  the  fund  at  the 
close  of  1813  was  $329,000.  From  that  time  to  the  close 
of  1831,  there  was  paid  into  it  from  the  sale  of  prizes  $452,- 
ooo.  During  the  same  period  it  received  in  interest  and 
dividends  on  stock  $822,000,  and  $584,000  was  paid  out  for 
pensions.  On  January  i,  1832,  the  fund  owned  about 
$1,000,000  in  stocks,  less  than  $100,000  being  in  various 
bank  stocks.  It  had  suffered  a  loss  of  about  $100,000  by 
the  failure  of  the  Columbia  Bank.  On  November  i,  1835, 
the  capital  amounted  to  $1,160,000,  but,  in  consequence  of 
ill-advised  laws  of  1834  and  1 837,  charges  upon  the  fund  be- 
came too  great  to  be  met  from  the  current  income.  The  se- 
curities were  gradually  sold,  and  the  fund  was  finally  ex- 
hausted in  1842.  From  that  time  until  the  Civil  War,  navy 
pensions  were  paid  by  annual  appropriations  made  by  Con- 

The  laws  establishing  the  navy  pension  fund  remained 
upon  the  statute  books,  and  again  came  into  existence  dur- 
ing the  Civil  War.  In  the  division  of  this  work  that  has 
been  adopted,  the  latter  part  of  the  history  of  the  fund 
should  in  strictness  be  given  in  the  chapters  on  Civil  War 
pensions,  but  it  will  be  included  here  for  the  sake  of  con- 
tinuity of  treatment.  With  the  opening  of  the  war,  large 
sums  of  money  began  to  accrue  to  the  Government  from  the 
sale  of  prizes  taken  at  sea.  Congress  gave  express  sanction 
to  the  re-establishment  of  the  fund  by  the  act  of  July  17, 
i862.2  By  October  i,  1864,  Commissioner  of  Pensions 

1  On  the  management  and  operations  of  the  navy  pension  fund,  see  American 
State  Papers,  Naval  Affairs,  i,  380-395;   iii,  528-530;   iv,  44-45,  818-825,  863. 

2  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xii,  607. 


Barrett  reported  that  the  navy  pension  fund  amounted  to 
about  $6,056,000,  of  which  more  than  $4,000,000  had  been 
paid  into  the  fund  during  the  year  preceding  that  date. 
This  sum,  invested  at  six  per  cent.,  would  give  an  annual  in- 
come of  some  $363,000.  The  total  annual  rate  of  the  navy 
pensions  of  all  classes  on  June  30,  1864,  was  only  $179,000. 
In  view  of  the  heavy  annual  demand  for  the  payment  of 
army  pensions,  Commissioner  Barrett  proposed  that  a  cer- 
tain proportion  of  the  money  accruing  from  the  sales  of 
abandoned  or  confiscated  property  or  land  should  be  simi- 
larly used  for  the  creation  of  an  army  pension  fund.  His 
suggestion  was  commended  to  the  consideration  of  Congress 
by  the  Secretary  of  the  Interior,  but  not  acted  upon.1 

By  the  act  of  1862,  only  navy  invalid  pensions  were 
chargeable  upon  the  fund.  These  were  paid  at  the  regular 
rates  established  by  Civil  War  pension  laws,  and  from  the 
office  of  the  Commissioner  of  Pensions.  Congress,  by  res- 
olution of  July  I,  1864,  directed  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy 
to  invest  the  fund  in  registered  securities  of  the  United 
States.  Its  nominal  income  was  greatly  increased  by  the 
exchange  of  the  coin  interest  on  these  securities  for  legal 
currency  of  the  United  States  at  the  existing  rate  of  premium 
on  gold.2  The  income  thus  created  was  so  far  in  excess  of 
all  demands  that  Congress,  in  1866,  charged  upon  the  fund 
Athe  payment  of  pensions  to  navy  widows  and  dependent 
relatives.3  By  1867  the  receipts  from  prize  money  and  sur- 
plus income  had  increased  the  capital  amount  to  $I3>~ 
000,000,  and  there  was  an  uninvested  balance  of  $229,000. 

In  an  act  of  March  2,  1867,  Congress  provided  for  the 
payment  from  the  navy  pension  fund  of  a  half  pay  allowance 
to  seamen  or  marines  who  have  served  twenty  years,  and 

1  Regarding  the  management  of  the  fund,  see  annual  Reports  of  the  Commis- 
sioner of  Pensions,  1863,  1864,  1865  and  1867. 

2  U.  S..  Statutes  at  Large,  xiii,  414.  8  Ibid.,  xiv.,  2-3. 

277]  SERVICE  BETWEEN  1789  AND  1861  59 

are,  from  age  or  infirmity,  disabled  from  sea  service.  This 
allowance  is  in  lieu  of  being  provided  with  a  home  in  the 
United  States  Naval  Asylum  at  Philadelphia.  The  same  law 
authorized  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy  to  make  from  the  fund 
an  allowance  to  disabled  persons  who  had  served  in  the 
navy  or  marine  corps  for  a  period  of  not  less  than  ten  years.1 
The  naval  appropriation  act  for  1870  also  charged  upon  the 
income  of  the  fund  the  future  support  of  the  Naval  Asylum 
at  Philadelphia.2 

At  the  close  of  the  war,  the  principal  of  the  navy  pension 
fund  invested  in  United  States  bonds  was  $14,000,000.  By 
act  of  July  23,  1868,  the  rate  of  interest  on  the  fund  was  re- 
duced to  three  per  cent,  per  annum  in  lawful  money.3  In 
consequence  of  the  great  increase  of  pension  expenditures, 
due  to  the  Civil  War,  the  income  of  the  fund  has  been  since 
1870  inadequate  to  pay  all  navy  pensions,  and  a  provision  of 
the  act  of  1862,  pledging  the  public  faith  to  make  up  the 
deficiency,  has  been  brought  into  operation.  In  1899  the 
fund  was  about  the  same  in  amount  as  at  the  end  of  the 
Civil  War,  but  it  will  presumably  be  somewhat  increased  by 
the  investment  of  the  prize  money  received  by  the  Govern- 
ment on  account  of  the  recent  War  with  Spain. 

In  the  present  condition  of  the  navy  pension  fund,  the  in- 
come available  for  the  payment  of  navy  pensions  is  less  than 
ten  per  cent  of  the  actual  payments  made  in  connection  with 
that  branch  of  the  service.4  This  is  shown  by  the  following 
statistics : 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xiv,  515-517.     These  provisions  were  enacted  to  carry 
out  the  clause  of  the  eleventh  section  of  the  Act  of  July  17, 1862,  directing  that  the 
surplus  income  from  the  navy  pension  fund  "  be  applied  to  the  making  of  further 
provision  for  the  comfort  of  disabled  officers,  seamen  and  marines."     The  allow- 
ances are  in  addition  to  pensions  to  which  the  persons  concerned  may  be  entitled 
under  other  laws. 

2  Ibid.,  xv,  277.  3  Ibid.,  xv,  170. 
4  Report  of  Commissioner  of  Pensions  for  1899,  105. 


Payments  for  Available 

Navy  Pensions.  income  of  fund. 

In  i89S #3,655.485  #339,535 

In  1896 3,588,528  340,685 

In  1897 •  •  •  •  •  3,635,802  340,275 

In  1 898 3,723,932  341,275 

In  1 899 3,683,794  342,275 

As  was  previously  noted,  a  part  of  the  income  of  the  navy 
pension  fund  is  used  for  the  support  of  the  Naval  Asylum  at 

A  privateer  pension  fund  was  inaugurated  by  the  act  of 
June  26,  1812,  but  this  was  exhausted  at  the  end  of  about 
twenty-five  years.  The  provisions  for  its  establishment  and 
administration,  however,  still  remain  on  the  statute  book. 
The  fund  consisted  of  two  per  cent  of  the  net  amount  of  the 
prize  money  accruing  to  privateers  of  the  United  States.1 
Pensions  were  paid,  under  supervision  of  the  Secretary  of  the 
Navy,  to  those  who  were  wounded  and  disabled  on  board 
the  private  armed  vessels  of  the  United  States  in  engage- 
ments with  the  enemy,  and  also  to  the  widows  and  orphans 
of  such  as  died  by  reason  of  their  wounds.  The  fund  was 
managed  in  much  the  same  way  as  the  navy  pension  fund, 
and  at  one  time  amounted  to  about  $2OO,ooo.2  Demands 
upon  the  fund  being  too  great  to  be  satisfied  from  the  in- 
come, it  was  gradually  decreased  by  the  sale  of  stocks  and 
finally  exhausted  about  1838.  The  few  pensions  paid  from 
it  were  stopped.  Congress  later  made  provisions  for  the  re- 
newal of  the  privateer  pensions  and  for  their  payment  from 
the  ordinary  pension  appropriations. 

3 .    War  of  1812  Pensions. 

In  the  spring  of  1812,  various  acts  for  the  raising  of  troops 
included  the  same  invalid  pension  provisions  as  had  been 
made  for  the  regular  army  by  the  act  of  1802.  In  1816,  the 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  ii,  759. 

3  American  State  Papers,  Naval  Affairs,  i,  666-667. 

279]  SERVICE  BETWEEN  1789  AND  i8gi  fa 

rate  of  a  full  pension  for  private  soldiers  was  increased  from 
five  to  eight  dollars  per  month,  and  there  was  also  an  increase 
in  the  rates  of  pensions  paid  to  the  lower  grades  of  commis- 
sioned officers.  Half  pay  pensions  for  five  years  were 
granted  to  widows  and  orphans,  but  these  allowances,  in 
course  of  time,  expired.  However,  they  were  eventually 
renewed,  and,  before  the  Civil  War,  pensions  had  been 
granted  for  life  to  all  surviving  War  of  1812  widows,  whose 
husbands  had  died  as  the  result  of  wounds  received  or  of 
disability  incurred  in  service.  Pension  rates  for  the  War  of 
1812  were,  made  equal  to  Civil  War  rates  by  some  of  the 
earlier  pension  acts  passed  on  behalf  of  the  latter  war. 

Service  pensions  on  account  of  the  War  of  1812  were  not 
granted  until  1871.  With  the  lapse  of  time,  the  number  of 
invalid  pensioners  had  become  very  small,  and  a  lively  and 
long-continued  agitation  for  service  pensions  finally  met 
with  success.  The  Revolutionary  act  of  1832  was  appealed 
to  as  a  precedent,  and  thus  the  predictions  made  by  senators 
in  the  debate  on  that  law  were  fulfilled. 

The  act  of  February  14,  1871,  was  one  of  numerous  bills 
on  the  subject  proposed  to  Congress.  In  the  debates,  the 
principal  feature  was  the  discussion  of  a  so-called  "  pauper 
clause,"  requiring  proof  of  indigence  on  the  part  of  appli- 
cants for  pensions.  This  would  have  accorded  with  the 
principle  of  the  Revolutionary  pension  act  of  1818.  A  ma- 
jority, however,  was  found  in  favor  of  a  simple  service  pen- 
sion act  without  property  qualification.  There  was  the  usual 
underestimate  of  the  number  of  applicants  and  amount  of 
expenditure  involved. 

As  finally  approved,  the  act  of  1871  granted  pensions  to 
all  surviving  soldiers  or  sailors  of  the  War  of  1812,  who 
served  sixty  days  and  were  honorably  discharged,  or  who 
received  personal  mention  by  Congress  for  specific  services 
in  the  war.  Applicants  were  required  to  have  been  loyal 


during  the  Civil  War  and  to  take  an  oath  to  support  the 
Constitution.  Pensions  were  also  granted  to  the  surviving 
widows  of  those  who  had  served  as  above,  provided  that  the 
widows  had  been  married  prior  to  the  treaty  of  peace  and 
had  not  re- married.  The  rate  allowed  was  eight  dollars  per 
month  during  life,  and  proof  was  to  be  made  under  rules 
prescribed  by  the  Secretary  of  the  Interior.1 

The  effect  of  the  law  of  1871  was  immediately  felt.  At 
its  passage,  there  were  few  survivors  of  the  War  of  1812  on 
the  pension  rolls.  By  October  13,  1871,  the  Commissioner 
of  Pensions  reported  that  some  32,000  claims  had  been  re- 
ceived under  the  law,  and  that  a  new  class  of  pensioners  had 
been  established.  Of  the  claims  received,  about  25,000 
were  those  of  survivors  and  7,000  those  of  widows.3  The 
number  of  widows'  applications  was  greatly  limited  by  the 
proviso  with  regard  to  the  date  of  marriage.  Statistical 
information  with  regard  to  the  working  of  this  act  will  be 
furnished  later. 

Hardly  had  the  act  of  1871  become  law  before  numerous 
bills  were  introduced  in  the  interest  of  greater  liberality.  A 
particular  effort  was  made  to  remove  the  restriction  on 
widows'  pensions.  The  desired  ends  were  at  length  attained 
in  the  act  of  March  9,  1878,  which  received  commanding 
majorities  in  both  House  and  Senate.3  This  measure  was 
extravagant  in  its  terms,  opening  the  way  to  the  pension  roll 
for  widows  unborn  when  the  War  of  1812  was  fought,  and  for 
soldiers  who  had  seen  only  fourteen  days'  service.  Congress 
endorsed  the  proposition  put  forward  in  the  debates  that 
"  the  affectionate  ministrations  of  a  devoted  wife  during  the 
declining  years  of  an  infirm  and  too  often  destitute  and  suf- 
fering soldier  should  receive  some  recognition  on  the  part  of 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xvi,  411. 

1  Report  of  Commissioner  of  Pensions  for  1871. 

3  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xx,  27. 

28 1 ]  SERVICE  BETWEEN  1789  AND  1861  £3 

the  Government  created  and  established  by  their  (sic)  valor 
and  services  in  the  field."  Besides  shortening  the  necessary 
length  of  these  valorous  services  to  a  term  of  fourteen  days, 
the  requirement  of  loyalty  during  the  Civil  War  was  abol- 

Under  the  act  of  1878,  pensions  were  granted  to  all  those 
persons  in  any  branch  of  the  service,  who  served  for  four- 
teen days  in  the  War  of  1812,  or  who  were  in  any  engage- 
ment and  were  honorably  discharged,  and  to  the  surviving 
widows  of  all  such  persons.  Pensions  to  all  ranks  v.  ere  at  the 
rate  of  eight  dollars  per  month  during  life.  It  was  provided 
that  re-marriage  should  terminate  widows'  pensions.  Record 
evidence  of  service  and  honorable  discharge  were  not  re- 
quired, but  applicants  might  establish  their  claim  by  any 
other  satisfactory  testimony.  Provision  was  made  for  the 
restoration  to  the  rolls  of  all  War  of  1812  pensioners  who 
had  been  removed  for  disloyalty  during  the  Civil  War. 
Where  pensioners  had  thus  been  stricken  from  the  rolls  and 
had  died  without  restoration,  their  widows  were  given  the 
right  to  make  claim  for  a  pension  under  the  new  act. 

At  the  time  of  the  passage  of  the  act  of  1878,  claims  under 
the  law  of  1871  were  nearly  exhausted.  The  new  measure 
resulted  in  the  presentation  of  about  25,000  claims  between 
March  9  and  October  15,  1878,  on  account  of  a  war  which 
had  ended  sixty-three  years  ago.  Survivors  presented  only 
about  one- seventh  of  these  claims.  This  condition  of  affairs 
was  in  marked  contrast  to  that  under  the  act  of  1871,  when 
the  great  majority  of  claims  was  by  survivors.  The  change 
was  due  to  the  removal  of  the  restriction  on  the  date  of 
marriage  and  also  to  the  great  mortality  among  the  survivors, 
who  had  all  reached  an  exceedingly  advanced  age.1 

There  has  been  no  further  pension  legislation  on  account 

1  Report  of  Commissioner  of  Pensions  for  1878. 



of  the  War  of  1812,  although  the  act  of  March  19,  1886, 
operated  to  raise  the  pensions  of  widows  of  that  war  to  twelve 
dollars  per  month.  On  June  30,  1899,  there  was  on  the 
pension  roll  one  surviving  soldier  of  the  War  of  1812,  aged 
ninety-nine  years.  At  the  same  date,  there  were  1998  widows 
of  this  war  on  the  rolls.1  Some  of  these  widows  will  prob- 
ably be  found  among  the  nation's  pensioners  considerably 
more  than  a  century  after  the  conclusion  of  the  war. 

The  operation  of  the  War  of  1812  pension  laws  of  1871 
and  1878  is  shown  in  the  tabular  statement  on  the  opposite 
page.2  It  is  not  possible  to  give  separate  statistics  regarding 
this  class  of  pensioners  for  the  years  prior  to  1871.  At  that 
date,  the  number  of  such  pensioners  was  inconsiderable. 

4.  Indian  War  Pensions. 

In  the  course  of  its  history,  the  United  States  Government 
has  had  frequent  conflicts  with  hostile  Indian  tribes.  Some 
of  these  disturbances  were  of  sufficient  importance  to  be 
termed  wars.  It  has  been  uniformly  the  custom  to  extend 
the  benefits  of  existing  pension  laws  to  the  soldiers  of  these 
wars,  and  also  to  the  widows  and  orphans  of  the  slain.  An 
early  law  providing  for  those  engaged  in  fighting  hostile  In- 
dians was  that  of  April  10,  1812,  for  the  relief  of  the  officers 
and  soldiers  who  served  in  General  Harrison's  campaign  on 
the  Wabash.  From  that  time  down,  the  benefits  of  the 
pension  laws  were  extended  from  time  to  time  to  those  en- 
gaged in  putting  down  Indian  insurrections  in  Florida  and 
elsewhere.  At  the  time  of  the  Civil  War,  the  survivors  and 
widows  of  soldiers  in  the  various  Indian  wars  stood  on  the 
same  footing  as  to  pensions  as  those  of  the  War  of  1812. 

Service  pensions  were  not  granted  on  account  of  the  In- 

1  Report  of  Commissioner  of  Pensions  for  1899. 

2  Compiled  from  statistics  in  Reports  of  Commissioner  of  Pensions. 

283]  SERVICE  BETWEEN  1789  AND  1861 

WAR  OF  1812  PENSIONS  SINCE  1871 

No.  of  Pensioners  on  Rolls. 












$2.S^   Qf 

$ril  QO 

$0  066  CK 





*°    O  JJ     J 


•fp^  A  X  ,WW 




























































































































8,6  10 















6,8  1  6 





































389,73L  95 






















dian  wars  until  the  passage  of  the  act  of  July  27,  1892.* 
This  act  included  in  its  benefits  those  "  who  served  for  thirty 
days  in  the  Black  Hawk  War,  the  Creek  War,  the  Cherokee 
disturbances,  or  the  Florida  War  with  the  Seminole  Indians'1 
between  1832  and  1842,  and  were  honorably  discharged. 
It  also  included  such  others  as  had  been  personally  named 
in  any  resolution  of  Congress  for  any  specific  service  in  said 
Indian  wars,  even  though  their  term  of  service  had  been  less 
than  thirty  days.  The  surviving  widows  of  the  above  per- 
sons received  the  benefit  of  the  act,  provided  that  they  had 
not  remarried.  Pensions  were  at  the  rate  of  eight  dollars 
per  month  during  life.  Service  and  honorable  discharge 
might  be  proved  by  any  satisfactory  evidence,  and  loyalty 
during  the  rebellion  was  not  required.  The  following  table 
gives  the  statistics  of  Indian  war  pensions,  beginning  with 
the  fiscal  year  ending  June  30,  1893  : 


No.  Pensioners  on  Rolls. 



























6,66  1 






















5 .  Mexican  War  Pensions. 

The  act  of  May  13,  1846,  declared  the  existence  of  a  state 
of   war  between  the  Republic   of    Mexico  and  the  United 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Largf,x\vii,  281. 

*  Compiled  from  Reports  of  Commissioner  of  Pensions. 

285]  SERVICE  BETWEEN  1789  AND  1861  fy 

States,  and  also  authorized  the  President  to  raise  volunteers 
for  the  prosecution  of  the  war.1  A  section  of  the  act  prom- 
ised to  those  volunteers,  who  should  be  wounded  or  other- 
wise disabled  in  the  service,  the  same  benefits  as  were  pro- 
vided for  regular  troops.  Between  1848  and  1850,  a  num- 
ber of  acts  were  passed  granting  five  years'  half  pay  to  the 
widows  and  orphans  of  those  who  had  died  or  should  die  as 
the  result  of  wounds  received  or  disease  contracted  in  ser- 
vice during  the  war.  The  act  of  June  3,  1858,  extended  the 
half  pay  of  widows  for  life,  and  that  of  orphans  until  they 
reached  the  age  of  sixteen  years.2  At  the  time  of  the  Civil 
War,  pensions  were  granted  for  service  in  the  Mexican  War 
on  the  same  basis  as  for  the  War  of  1812  and  Indian  wars. 
The  earlier  Civil  War  pension  laws  increased  the  rates  for 
all  the  "  old  wars"  to  a  level  with  those  paid  on  account  of 
the  Civil  War. 

Immediately  after  the  passage  in  1871  of  the  War  of  1812 
service  pension  bill,  an  agitation  was  begun  in  favor  of  a 
similar  measure  applying  to  the  Mexican  War.  The  ques- 
tion was  long  before  Congress,  and  bills  on  the  subject 
several  times  passed  one  house  or  the  other.  Finally,  a 
limited  service  pension  act  became  law  on  January  29,  i88/.3 
This  directed  the  Secretary  of  the  Interior  to  grant  pensions 
to  those  persons  "  who  being  duly  enlisted,  actually  served 
sixty  days  with  the  army  or  navy  of  the  United  States  in 
Mexico,  or  on  the  coasts  or  frontier  thereof,  or  en  route 
thereto,  in  the  war  with  that  nation,  or  were  actually  engaged 
in  a  battle  in  said  war,  and  were  honorably  discharged,  and 
to  such  other  officers  and  soldiers  and  sailors  as  may  have 
been  personally  named  in  any  resolution  of  Congress  for  any 
specific  services  in  said  war,  and  the  surviving  widows  of  such 
officers  and  enlisted  men." 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  ix,  9.  J  Ibid.,  xi,  309.  *  Ibid.,  xxiv,  371. 

68  MILITAR  Y  PENSION  LE GISLA  T1ON  [  2  86 

Widows,  to  be  eligible  for  pensions,  must  not  have  re- 
married. The  law  also  requires  that  every  person  pensioned 
must  be  either  sixty-two  years  of  age,  or  subject  to  a  dis- 
ability or  dependency  equivalent  to  some  cause  recognized 
by  the  pension  laws  of  the  United  States  as  a  sufficient  reason 
for  the  allowance  of  a  pension.  Nor  must  the  disability  have 
been  incurred  by  the  applicant  while  voluntarily  engaged  in 
opposing  the  United  States  Government  during  the  Civil 
War.  The  rate  of  pensions  is  eight  dollars  per  month  dur- 
ing life.  The  act  does  not  apply  to  those  already  pensioned 
at  the  rate  of  eight  dollars  per  month  or  more,  and,  as  re- 
gards those  receiving  less  than  eight  dollars  per  month,  it 
applies  only  as  to  the  difference  between  the  existing  pen- 
sion and  eight  dollars  per  month.  Disloyalty  during  the 
Civil  War  is  not  a  bar  to  a  pension,  but  the  act  does  not  in- 
clude in  its  benefits  any  person  while  under  the  political  dis- 
abilities imposed  by  the  fourteenth  amendment  to  the  Con- 
stitution of  the  United  States. 

By  the  act  of  January  5,  1893,  the  Secretary  of  the  Interior 
was  authorized  to  increase  to  twelve  dollars  per  month, 
the  allowance  of  such  Mexican  War  survivors  then  on  the 
rolls,  as  were  wholly  disabled  for  manual  labor,  and  in  such 
destitute  circumstances  that  eight  dollars  per  month  was  in- 
sufficient to  provide  them  with  the  necessaries  of  life.1  At  the 
end  of  the  fiscal  year  1894,  about  3,700  pensions  had  been 
increased  under  this  provision.  On  June  30,  1899,  out  °f 
9,204  survivors  of  the  Mexican  War,  5,027  were  pensioned 
at  eight  dollars  per  month,  4,121  at  twelve  dollars  per  month, 
and  the  small  remainder  at  rates  in  excess  of  twelve  dollars 
per  month.  All  widows  were  pensioned  at  eight  dollars  per 
month,  with  the  exception  of  a  few  cases  provided  for  by 
special  act.2 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xxvii,  413.      J  Reports  of  Commissioner  of  Pensions. 

i    ;  I 

287]  SERVICE  BETWEEN  1789  AND  1861  69 

A  tabular  statement  of  the  operation  of  Mexican   War 
pension  laws  since  1887  follows: 


No.  of  Pensioners  on  Rolls. 











































































































THE  operation  of  the  pension  laws  enacted  on  account  of 
our  Civil  War  has  invariably  extended  back  to  March  4, 
1 86 1,  the  date  of  the  inauguration  of  the  Lincoln  adminis- 
tration. Hostilities  began  in  the  spring  of  1861,  but,  when 
the  fiscal  year  ended  on  June  30,  they  had  not  yet  resulted 
in  the  addition  of  any  new  names  to  the  pension  roll.  In 
July  was  fought  the  important  battle  of  Bull  Run,  and,  by 
November,  Commissioner  of  Pensions  Barrett  reported  that 
claims  were  being  rapidly  filed  by  disabled  Union  soldiers, 
and  by  the  widows  and  orphans  of  the  slain.  In  the  absence 
of  legislation  entirely  adequate  to  the  emergency,  it  was 
some  time  before  the  effects  of  the  war  began  to  be  felt  in 
any  large  increase  in  the  number  of  pensioners. 

Up  to  the  beginning  of  the  war,  the  United  States  Govern- 
ment had  expended  for  military  pensions  about  $90,000,000, 
and  had  granted  65,500,000  acres  of  bounty  land  in  recog- 
nition of  military  services.  The  pension  list  at  this  time 
consisted  of  some  10,700  persons,  of  whom  63  were  soldiers 
of  the  Revolution,  and  2,728  the  widows  of  such  soldiers. 
The  aggregate  annual  value  of  these  pensions  was  $958,000, 
and  the  actual  expenditure  during  the  fiscal  year  ending 
June  30,  1 86 1,  was  $1,072,000.'  Under  the  laws  then  in 
force,  the  number  of  pensioners  was  decreasing  at  the  rate  of 
five  or  six  hundred  each  year.  Seventy-five  or  eighty  per- 
sons were  proving  more  than  sufficient  to  carry  on  the  work 

1  For  statistics  see  Report  of  Commissioner  of  Pensions,  1861. 
70  [288 

289]  CIVIL   WAR,  1861-1879  7! 

of  the  Pension  Bureau.  Normally,  there  would  have  been 
a  gradual  but  constant  decrease  in  the  amount  of  the  annual 
pension  payment.  The  Civil  War  checked  this  tendency, 
and  opened  the  way  to  an  expenditure  for  military  pensions 
unequaled  in  the  history  of  any  nation. 

At  the  opening  of  the  war,  the  Bureau  of  Pensions  soon 
found  it  necessary  to  adopt  a  policy  with  regard  to  the  treat- 
ment of  disloyal  pensioners.  An  order  issued  before  the  semi- 
annual payment  of  September  4,  1861,  required  the  oath  of 
allegiance  to  be  taken  by  pensioners  before  receiving  their 
stipends.  The  pension  agencies  in  the  disloyal  States  were 
suspended,  as  were  also  the  pensions  of  disaffected  persons 
in  loyal  States.  On  June  30,  1862,  the  pensions  of  2,073 
persons  in  the  Southern  States  were  reported  as  suspended, 
and,  by  the  end  of  the  war,  the  names  of  all  the  pensioners 
in  the  eleven  Confederate  States  had  been  stricken  from  the 
rolls.  After  the  close  of  hostilities,  such  as  were  able  to 
prove  their  continued  loyalty  in  act  and  sympathy  through- 
out the  war  were  restored  to  the  pension  list,  and  also  re- 
ceived the  arrears  which  had  accrued  since  the  last  payment 
prior  to  the  rebellion.  Since  1862,  the  requirement  of 
loyalty  during  the  Civil  War  has  been  a  fundamental  prin- 
ciple of  our  pension  laws,  although  exceptions  have  been 
made  in  the  service  pension  acts  passed  on  behalf  of  the 
soldiers  of  the  "  old  wars,"  and  in  certain  other  cases.1 

On  April  15,  1861,  three  days  after  the  firing  on  Fort 
Sumter,  President  Lincoln  issued  a  proclamation  calling  out 
seventy- five  thousand  militia,  and  also  appointing  an  extra- 
ordinary session  of  Congress  to  convene  on  July  4.  At  this 
session,  the  act  of  July  22,  1861,  was  passed,  authorizing  the 
President  to  accept  the  services  of  not  exceeding  five  hun- 
dred thousand  volunteers.2  Among  the  sections  of  this  law 

1  The  question  of  loyalty  is  discussed  in  the  Reports  of  the  Commissioner  of  Pen- 
sions for  1 86 1,  1862,  1865  and  1866. 
"'  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xii,  270. 

7  2  MI  LI  TAR  Y  PENSION  LE  GISLA  TION  [290 

was  one  which  provided  that  all  volunteers  under  its  pro- 
visions, who  might  be  wounded  or  otherwise  disabled  in  the 
service,  should  be  entitled  to  the  benefits  conferred  on  per- 
sons disabled  in  the  regular  army.  The  widows  or  legal 
heirs  of  such  as  should  die  in  the  service  were  promised  the 
sum  of  one  hundred  dollars,  in  addition  to  all  arrears  of  pay 
and  allowances.  This  provision  may  be  said  to  have  estab- 
lished at  the  very  outset  of  the  war  the  principle  of  invalid 
pensions  for  disabled  Union  soldiers.  The  promise  of  such 
pensions  was  without  doubt  an  inducement  offered  to  secure 
voluntary  enlistments. 

The  preceding  provision  did  not  apply  to  the  soldiers 
called  into  service  by  Lincoln's  proclamations  of  April  15 
and  May  3,  1861.  These  men  were  engaged  in  the  import- 
ant battle  of  Bull  Run  and  in  minor  engagements,  and,  by 
tha  fall  of  1861,  numerous  claims  on  their  behalf  were  re- 
ceived by  the  Pension  Bureau.  Old  laws  were  found  on  the 
statute  books  which  were  deemed  to  warrant  the  allowance 
of  many  of  these  claims,  but  the  uncertainties  and  discrep- 
ancies of  existing  provisions  led  the  Commissioner  of  Pen- 
sions to  ask  for  the  prompt  enactment  of  explicit  and  detailed 
legislation  by  Congress.1 

The  need  of  further  legislation  was  emphasized  in  an 
opinion  of  Attorney-General  Bates,  prepared  at  the  request 
of  the  Secretary  of  the  Interior.2  For  provisions  respecting 
invalid  pensions  the  Attorney- General  was  compelled  to  go 
back  to  the  old  laws  of  1802  and  1813,  which  were  quite  in- 
adequate. There  was  in  his  opinion  no  provision  of  law 
whereby  pensions  might  be  conferred  upon  the  widows  and 
children  of  such  of  the  volunteers  as  might  die  or  be  killed 

1  Report  of  Commissioner  of  Pensions,  1861.     Message  and  Documents,  1861- 
1862,  Part  i,  836. 

2  House  Ex.  Doc.,  vii,  1861-1862,  no.  98. 

29 1 "]  C/F7Z  #^tf,  1861-1879  73 

in  the  service.1  He  earnestly  recomended  that  the  attention 
of  Congress  might  be  called  to  the  propriety  of  enacting 
laws  which  might  be  easily  understood,  and  which  might 
comprehend  all  that  the  emergency  required. 

By  resolution  of  April  I,  1862,  the  House  of  Representa- 
tives requested  from  the  Attorney-General  a  copy  of  the 
preceding  opinion.2  Prompt  steps  were  taken  to  secure 
adequate  pension  legislation.  On  April  30  "  An  act  to  grant 
pensions"  was  introduced  into  the  House  from  the  Com- 
mittee on  Invalid  Pensions.3  The  measure  had  been  pre- 
pared after  numerous  meetings  of  the  committee,  and  had 
received  the  approval  of  the  Commissioner  of  Pensions. 
Speedy  action  was  urged.  Although  amended  in  several 
respects,  the  bill  met  no  serious  opposition  in  either  House 
or  Senate,  and  was  finally  approved  by  the  President  on  July 
14,  1862.4 

This  law  applied  to  army  and  navy  alike,  including 
regulars,  volunteers  and  militia,  and  also  the  marine 
corps.  It  provided  pensions  for  disability,  which  had  been 
incurred  since  March  4,  1861,  or  should  thereafter  be  in- 
curred, by  reason  of  wounds  received  or  disease  contracted 
while  in  the  service  of  the  United  States,  and  in  the  line  of 
duty.  The  rates  for  total  disability  ranged  according  to 
rank  from  thirty  dollars  to  eight  dollars  per  month.  The 
former  amount  was  allowed  to  a  lieutenant-colonel  or  officer 
of  a  higher  grade  in  the  army  or  marine  corps,  and  to  a 
captain,  commander  or  officer  of  equal  rank  in  the  navy; 

1  The  Department  of  Interior  conformed  to  the  Attorney-General's  opinion  by 
a  decision  excluding  widows  and  orphans  of  deceased  Union  soldiers  from  the 
benefits  conferred  on  those  classes  by  previous  army  pension  laws.  House  Ex* 
Doc.,  38th  Cong.,  1864-1865,  v,  654. 

8  Cong.  Globe,  2d  Sess.,  37th  Cong.,  1861-1862,  1480. 

8  Ibid.,  Part  ii,  1886. 

4  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xii,  566-569. 


while  the  latter  amount  was  granted  to  non-commissioned 
officers  and  privates  in  the  army,  and  to  petty  officers  and 
common  sailors  in  the  navy.  Proportionate  pensions  were 
to  be  allowed  in  each  rank  for  partial  disability.  Invalid 
pensions  were  to  commence  from  the  date  of  discharge  in 
all  cases  in  which  the  application  should  be  filed  within  one 
year  after  that  date.  Otherwise  the  pension  was  to  be  paid 
from  the  date  of  filing  the  application.  In  all  cases  the  pen- 
sions were  to  continue  during  the  existence  of  the  disability. 

To  the  widow,  or  if  there  were  no  widow,  to  the  child  or 
children  under  sixteen  years  of  age,  of  any  person  dying, 
after  March  4,  1861,  by  reason  of  any  wound  received  or 
disease  contracted,  while  in  the  service  of  the  United  States, 
and  in  the  line  of  duty,  the  act  granted  the  same  pension  as 
would  have  been  allowed  to  the  husband  or  father  for  total 
disability.  This  pension  was  to  commence  from  the  death 
of  the  husband  or  father,  and  to  continue  to  the  widow  dur- 
her  widowhood,  or  to  the  child  or  children  until  they  sever- 
ally attained  the  age  of  sixteen  years. 

Where  a  deceased  officer  or  soldier  left  no  widow  or  legiti- 
mate child,  but  a  dependent  mother,  the  mother  was  given 
the  right  to  receive  the  pension  which  might  have  been  al- 
lowed to  a  widow  or  child.  By  a  re-marriage,  the  dependent 
mother  forfeited  the  pension  received  on  account  of  her  son, 
nor  could  any  mother  receive  at  the  same  time  more  than 
one  pension  under  the  provisions  of  the  act.  Where  the  de- 
ceased soldier  had  left  neither  widow  nor  child  nor  mother,, 
but  an  orphan  sister  or  sisters,  under  sixteen  years  of  age, 
who  were  wholly  or  in  part  dependent  upon  him  for  support, 
the  pension  might  go  to  such  sister  or  sisters  until  they  sev- 
erally attained  the  age  of  sixteen  years.  But  the  orphans 
were  in  no  case  to  receive  more  than  one  pension  under  the 
law  at  the  same  time.  Payment  of  pensions  to  any  disloyal 
relatives  or  heirs  of  a  deceased  soldier  was  specifically  for- 

293]  CIVIL   WAR,  1861-1879  75 

bidden,  and  the  right  to  such  payment  was  transferred  to  the 
loyal  heirs,  if  there  were  any. 

The  remaining  sections  of  the  act  dealt  with  many  admin- 
istrative details,  and  included  provisions  regulating  attorneys' 
fees,  imposing  penalties  for  frauds  by  agents  and  attorneys, 
regulating  the  appointment  and  fees  of  examining  surgeons, 
and  authorizing  the  Secretary  of  the  Interior  to  appoint  a 
special  agent  to  assist  in  the  detection  and  prosecution  of 
pension  frauds.  The  last  section  repealed  all  previous  en- 
actments inconsistent  with  the  provisions  of  this  law. 

This  act  of  1862  was  epoch  making.  It  became  the  fun- 
damental pension  law  for  all  claims  arising  out  of  service  in 
the  Civil  War.  Extending  its  operation  backward  to  March 
4,  1 86 1,  and  forward  indefinitely,  it  was  by  far  the  most  lib- 
eral measure  of  the  kind  up  to  that  time  enacted  by  our 
Government.  Two  classes  of  dependent  relatives  heretofore 
unknown  to  our  legislation — mothers  and  orphan  sisters — 
were  provided  for,  while  the  pensions  to  other  classses,  and 
particularly  to  widows  and  orphans,  and  to  disabled  seamen, 
were  largely  increased.  Greater  uniformity  in  the  rates  of 
army  and  navy  pensions  was  also  secured.  By  the  terms  of 
this  law,  we  find  the  National  Government,  early  in  the  war, 
explicitly  committed  not  only  to  a  grant  of  pensions  to  dis- 
abled Union  soldiers,  but  also  to  a  similar  provision  for  the 
dependent  relatives  of  those  who  should  lose  their  lives  in 
the  service. 

In  Congress,  the  act  of  1862  was  practically  unopposed, 
and  the  exciting  events  of  the  time  seem  to  have  so  en- 
grossed public  interest  that  it  met  with  but  little  attention  in 
the  country  at  large.  We  do,  however,  hear  of  "apprehen- 
sions in  some  quarters  of  an  extravagant,  if  not  insupporta- 
ble, annual  burden  resulting  from  the  law."  Commissioner 
Barrett  thought  these  unwarranted,  and  expressed,  in  No- 
vember, 1862,  the  conviction  that,  "supposing  the  results  of 


the  war  to  be  commensurate  with  what  may  reasonably  be 
expected  from  the  means  employed,  the  total  annual  sum  re- 
quired to  carry  out  this  law  will  in  no  year  exceed  $7,000,- 
ooo."  x  The  unexpected  duration  of  the  war  rendered  this 
estimate  entirely  inadequate,  as  the  Commissioner  himself 
pointed  out  in  his  report  for  1864.  By  June  30  of  that  year 
there  were  51,135  pensioners,  a  much  greater  number  than 
had  ever  before  been  on  the  rolls.  Some  47,000  pensions 
had  been  allowed  under  the  act  of  1862,  21,000  to  invalids, 
and  26,000  to  widows,  orphans  and  dependent  relatives.2 

The  history  of  Civil  War  pension  legislation  is  one  of  con- 
tinually increasing  liberality  on  the  part  of  Congress.  This 
tendency  was  early  manifested  in  the  passage  of  the  act  of 
July  4,  1864,  which  introduced  a  new  principle  into  our  pen- 
sion legislation — that  of  fixed  rates  for  certain  specific  dis- 
abilities.3 This  system  of  special  ratings  has  since  had  an 
astonishing  and  almost  absurd  development.  Rates,  rang- 
ing from  twenty-four  to  one  hundred  dollars  per  month,  are 
now  fixed  by  law  for  about  twenty  specific  disabilities,  and, 
under  authority  conferred  upon  him,  the  Commissioner  of 
Pensions  has  fixed  rates  for  some  fifty  other  disabilities. 
Total  disability  was  in  1 862  understood  to  be  inability  to 
perform  manual  labor,  and  the  pension  was  eight  dollars 
per  month.  But  this  rate  is  now  paid  for  "  simple  total  dis- 
ability," and  is  the  same  as  that  for  stiffening  (anchylosis) 
of  the  wrist,  loss  of  a  thumb,  or  loss  of  the  great  and  second 
toes.  Inability  to  perform  manual  labor  is  now  pensioned 
at  thirty  dollars  per  month.* 

The  following  official  table  exhibits  in  a  concise  form  all  of 

1  Report  of  Commissioner  of  Pensions,  1862.     Message  and  Documents,  1862- 
1863,  Part  ii,  580-581. 
a  Report  of  Commissioner  of  Pensions,  1864. 
3  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xiii,  387-389. 
*  Treatise  on  the  Practice  of  the  Pension  Bureau,  1898,  122-125. 

295]  CIVIL   WAR,  1861-1879  77 

the  rates  established  by  law  for  specific  disabilities  from  1864 
to  the  present: 

Rates  and  Disabilities 
Specified  by  Law. 












From  Mar.  3,  1883. 




From  Aug.  4,  1886. 






".  |  From  Mar.  4,  1890. 

Act  of  July  14,1892.  ] 

From  July  4,  i 

From  Mar.  3,  3 











Loss  of  both  hands  
Loss  of  sight  of  both  eyes  . 












Loss  of  sight  of  one  eye,  the 
sight  of  the  other  lost  be- 

Total  disabilityin  both  hands 
Regular  aid  and  attendance 






Periodical  aid  and  attend- 

a  ix 


Loss  of  an  arm  at  shoulder 










Loss  of  an  arm  at  or  above 
elbow,  or  a  leg  at  or  above 

Loss  of  a  leg  above  the  knee 
causing  inability  to  wear 

Loss  of  one  hand  and  one 

Total  disabilityin  one  arm 




Total  disability  in  one  hand 



Total  disability  in  both  feet 




Total  disability  in  one  hand 


Incapacity  to  perform  man- 

Total  deafness  

Sio          > 

Disability  equivalent  to  the 



*  Seventy-two  dollars  from  June  17,  1878,  only  where  the  rate  was  $50  under  the  Act  of  June 
18,  1874,  and  granted  prior  to  June  16,  1880.  First  grade  proper  is  $50,  amended  by  the  Act  of 
March  4,  1890,  which  increases  rate  to  $72. 

f  From  date  of  medical  examination  held  after  July  14,  1892. 

In  his  report  for  1864,  Commissioner  of  Pensions  Barrett 
commented  upon  the  development  of  the  pension  system 
under  the  acts  of  1862  and  1864.  He  said: 

"  No  other  nation  has  provided  so  liberally  for  its  disabled  sol- 
diers and  seamen,  or  for  the  dependent  relatives  of  the  fallen.  The 


Government  has  undertaken  to  make  up,  to  a  certain  specified  ex- 
tent, for  the  loss  of  health  or  members,  when  incurred  strictly  in  its 
military  or  naval  service,  and  to  furnish  regular  pecuniary  aid  to  the 
families  of  those  whose  lives  are  thus  sacrificed.  From  this  simple 
impulse  of  justice,  manifesting  itself  in  the  war  of  independence, 
has  sprung  the  entire  system  now  expanding  into  proportions  per- 
haps little  anticipated  in  those  early  days.  In  place  of  laws  for  par- 
ticular emergencies,  cautiously  limited  to  retrospective  action,  we 
have  now  a  statute  which  puts  on  an  equal  footing  each  arm  of  the 
service,  embracing  the  future  as  well  as  the  present  in  its  scope,  and 
providing  for  regulars,  volunteers  and  militia  alike." ! 

An  act  of  March  3,  1865,  broadened  the  construction  of 
the  act  of  1862  in  the  interest  of  the  children  of  deceased 
officers  and  soldiers.2  Where  a  widow  should  die  or  marry 
without  payment  to  her  of  any  part  of  a  pension  to  which 
she  was  entitled,  it  provided  that  the  pension  should  go  to 
the  child  or  children  under  sixteen  years  of  age,  just  as  in 
cases  where  there  was  no  widow.  If  the  pension  had  been 
paid  to  the  widow,  the  child  or  children  were,  in  case  of  her 
death  or  remarriage,  to  succeed  to  the  pension  until  they 
severally  attained  the  age  of  sixteen  years. 

The  pension  list  continued  to  grow  with  ever  increasing 
rapidity.  By  June  30,  1866,  the  number  of  pensioners  on 
the  rolls  was  126,722,  and  the  annual  expenditure  already 
amounted  to  $13,460,000.  Notwithstanding  the  increasing 
demands  upon  the  Treasury,  the  liberality  of  Congress  con- 
tinued unchecked,  and  two  increase  acts  became  law  in 

New  rates  for  many  specific  disabilities  were  established  by 
the  act  of  June  6,  i866.3  These  involved  a  substantial 
addition  to  the  annual  pension  expenditure.  The  act  of 

1  House  Ex.  Doc.,  38th  Cong.,  1864-1865,  v,  656. 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xiii,  499-500.  *  Ibid.,  xiv,  56. 

297]  CIVIL    WAR,  1861-1879  jg 

1862  was  also  amended  so  as  to  grant  the  benefits  of  the 
pension  laws  to  orphan  brothers  under  sixteen  years  of  age 
as  well  as  to  orphan  sisters,  and  to  dependent  fathers  as  well 
as  mothers.  This  same  act  established  regulations  covering 
many  minor  questions  arising  in  the  administration  of  the 
pension  laws. 

The  second  of  the  increase  acts  was  that  of  July  25,  I866.1 
Its  main  object  was  the  relief  of  widows  who  had  large  fam- 
ilies dependent  upon  them  for  support.  Pensions  of  such 
widows  were  increased  at  the  rate  of  two  dollars  per  month 
for  each  child  of  the  deceased  soldier  or  sailor  under  the  age 
of  sixteen  years.  Where  there  was  no  widow  living  and  en- 
titled to  a  pension,  and  there  was  more  than  one  child,  the 
children  were  granted  a  pension  equal  in  amount  to  that 
which,  under  the  circumstances,  would  have  been  allowed  to 
a  widow. 

The  same  law  extended  the  provisions  of  the  act  of  July 
14,  1862,  and  supplementary  acts  to  the  pensions  under  pre- 
vious laws,  except  Revolutionary  pensions.  This  extension 
was  afterward  so  construed  as  to  limit  its  effect  merely  to  the 
specific  increase  allowed  to  pensioners,  and  it  was  not  recog- 
nized as  making  a  new  class  of  pensioners,  or  as  placing,  in 
every  respect,  all  pensions,  except  Revolutionary,  upon  the 
basis  of  the  acts  in  question.2 

The  passage  of  these  two  laws  of  1866,  together  with  the 
continued  reception  of  original  applications  in  numbers  ex- 
ceeding expectations,  nearly  doubled  the  labors  of  the  Pen- 
sion Bureau  for  the  year  ending  June  30,  1867.  Commis- 
sioner Barrett  expressed  a  belief  that  no  important  exten- 
sion of  the  very  liberal  provisions  of  the  pension  laws  would 
now  be  contemplated  by  Congress.  In  two  years,  about 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xiv,  230. 

2  House  Ex.  Doc.,  4OthCong.,  1867-1868,  Report  of  Sec1  y  of  Interior,  \,  4-5. 


18,800  pensions  were  increased  under   the  act  of  June   6, 
1866,  and  about  46,300  under  the  act  of  July  25,  1866.' 

The  next  important  pension  law  was  that  of  July  27,  1868, 
which  easily  passed  both  houses  of  Congress.2  In  explain- 
ing it  to  the  Senate,  Mr.  Van  Winkle  said : 

"  The  whole  object  of  the  bill  is  to  correct  certain  misconstructions 
in  the  law,  supply  some  omissions  in  the  law,  and  make  other  similar 
corrections  *  *  *  *  in  order  to  prevent  such  a  flood  of  pension 
bills  being  thrown  upon  Congress  as  has  been  at  this  session.  There 
have  been  misconstructions  of  the  law  at  the  Pension  Office.  The 
law  in  some  cases  is  defective,  perhaps,  in  a  single  word  or  two, 
which  is  now  to  be  supplied,  or  some  case  of  parallel  nature  to  that 
mentioned  in  the  law  has  not  been  mentioned." 3 

Mr.  Van  Winkle  asserted  that  the  bill,  as  it  had  been  acted 
on,  would  reduce  pensions  on  the  whole,  but  from  an  ex- 
amination of  its  provisions  it  is  difficult  to  see  where  the 
reduction  came  in. 

During  the  debate  in  the  Senate,  an  amendment  was 
offered  to  increase  the  pensions  of  the  higher  classes  of  army 
and  navy  officers.  Senator  Sherman  of  Ohio  said  in  opposi- 

"  It  is  a  very  ungracious  task  to  object  to  a  pension  of  any 
amount  to  a  person  who  has  been  in  the  military  service ;  but  I 
submit  to  the  Senate  whether  it  is  wise  now,  in  the  present  condi- 
tion of  the  public  business,  at  this  stage  of  the  session,  the  attention 
of  the  Senate  having  scarcely  been  called  to  this  bill,  to  raise  the 
pensions  of  any  portion  of  the  army  or  navy.  At  a  time  when  we 
are  endeavoring  to  lower  all  the  expenses  of  the  government ;  when 
we  have  reduced  all  our  appropriations  ;  when  we  have  thrown  off 
$100,000,000  of  taxes,  and  yet  when  taxes  are  still  very  burdensome 
on  our  people ;  when  the  pension  fund  now  is  $33,000,000  (?)  a 

1  Reports  of  Commissioner  of  Pensions,  1867  and  1868. 

2  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xv,  235-237. 

3  Cong.  Globe,  2d  Sess,  4Oth  Cong.,  1867-1868,  Part  v,  4228-4230. 


299]  CIVIL   WAR,  1861-2879  8! 

year  —  twice  as  much  as  any  nation  in  the  world  ever  paid  before  —  I 
ask  whether  it  is  worth  while  for  us  to  increase  our  pension  lists  on 
a  mere  amendment  of  a  bill  of  this  kind.  I  do  not  like  to  object 
to  anything  of  this  sort,  because  I  have  the  same  feelings  that  other 
Senators  have,  a  feeling  of  kindness  and  commiseration  for  those 
who  have  been  wounded  in  the  service  of  the  country  ;  but,  if  this 
amendment  is  pressed,  I  shall  have  to  make  opposition  to  it  and 
move  the  postponement  of  the  bill.  If  the  bill  is  only  intended  to 
remove  ambiguities  in  existing  laws,  as  the  Senator  from  West  Vir- 
ginia (Mr.  Van  Winkle)  has  stated,  I  have  no  objection,  but  I  can- 
not consent  to  this  increase  of  pensions."  l 

The  amendment  was  withdrawn  and  the  bill  passed. 

Previous  legislation  had  left  the  order  of  precedence  of 
dependent  relatives  in  the  receipt  of  pensions  somewhat  in- 
definite, and  declaratory  legislation  on  the  question  was 
needed.  This  was  supplied  by  the  first  section  of  the  act  of 
1868,  which  gave  precedence  to  dependent  relatives  of 
deceased  soldiers  leaving  neither  widow  nor  child  "  in  the 
following  order,  namely  :  first,  mothers  ;  secondly,  fathers  ; 
thirdly,  orphan  brothers  or  sisters  under  sixteen  years  of 
age,"  who  were  to  be  pensioned  jointly  if  there  was  more 
than  one.  Where  the  dependent  mother  and  father  were 
both  living,  the  father  was  given  the  right  to  succeed  to  the 
pension  on  the  death  of  the  mother.  And,  upon  the  death  of 
the  father  and  mother,  the  dependent  brothers  and  sisters 
under  sixteen  years  of  age  were  given  joint  title  to  the  pen- 
sion until  they  attained  the  age  of  sixteen  years,  respectively  ; 
the  pension  to  date  from  the  death  of  the  party  who, 
preceding  them,  would  have  been  entitled  to  the  same.  No 
pension  already  awarded  was  to  be  affected  by  the  foregoing 

The  second  section  of  the  act  of  1868  was  also  important 
as  defining  the  conditions  under  which  pensions  would  be 

1  Cong.  Globe,  2d  Sess.,  1867-1868,  Part  v,  4230. 


granted  for  disabilities  incurred  in  time  of  peace.     It  pro- 
vided :  ' 

"That  no  person  shall  be  entitled  to  a  pension  by  reason  of 
wounds  received,  or  disease  contracted,  in  the  service  of  the  United 
States,  subsequently  to  the  passage  of  this  act,  unless  the  person  who 
was  wounded  or  contracted  disease  was  in  the  line  of  duty ;  and,  if 
in  the  military  service,  was  at  the  time  actually  in  the  field,  or  on  the 
march,  or  at  some  post,  fort  or  garrison ;  or,  if  in  the  naval  service, 
was  at  the  time  borne  on  the  books  of  some  ship,  or  other  vessel  of 
the  United  States,  at  sea  or  in  harbor,  actually  in  commission,  or  was 
on  his  way,  by  direction  of  competent  authority,  to  the  United  States, 
or  to  some  other  vessel  or  naval  station." 

Arrears  of  pension  were  allowed  by  section  six  of  this 
law.  This  provided  that  all  pensions  which  had  been 
granted  in  consequence  of  death  occurring,  or  disease  con- 
tracted, or  wounds  received  since  March  4,  1861,  or  which 
might  thereafter  be  granted,  should  commence  from  the 
death  or  discharge  of  the  person  on  whose  account  the  pen- 
sion had  been  or  might  be  granted.  In  order  to  secure  the 
benefits  of  this  arrears  provision,  it  was  required  that  the  ap- 
plication for  the  pension  should  be  filed  with  the  Commis- 
sioner of  Pensions  within  five  years  after  the  right  thereto 
had  accrued.  An  exception  to  this  limitation  was  made  in 
favor  of  insane  persons  and  children  under  sixteen  years  of 
age  without  guardians  or  other  proper  legal  representatives. 

This  act  also  contained  numerous  sections  of  minor  im- 
portance, changing  and  supplementing  the  general  pen- 
sion law.  Failure  to  claim  a  pension  for  three  years  was 
made  presumptive  evidence  that  the  pension  had  legally  ter- 
minated, subject  to  a  right  of  restoration  on  a  new  applica- 
tion, with  evidence  satisfactorily  accounting  for  the  failure  to 
claim  the  pension.  Where  a  soldier  or  sailor  died  leaving  a 
widow  entitled  to  a  pension,  and  also  a  child  or  children 
under  sixteen  years  of  age  by  a  former  wife,  a  pension  of 

30I]  CIVIL   WAR,  i86i-i879  83 

two  dollars  per  month  was  provided  for  each  of  such  chil- 
dren, thus  placing  them  upon  the  same  footing  as  the  chil- 
dren of  a  surviving  widow.  Other  sections  dealt  with  many 
matters  not  of  sufficient  general  interest  to  demand  attention 
here,  although  of  great  importance  to  claimants  and  attor- 
neys. The  whole  tendency  of  this  act  of  1868  was  toward  a 
liberal  construction  of  the  pension  laws. 

Although  several  measures  were  introduced  into  Congress, 
no  other  general  pension  laws  were  enacted  for  some  time. 
The  acts  of  June  17  and  June  30,  1870,  may  be  noticed  as 
marking  a  further  provision  for  the  veterans  of  the  war.1  In 
these  laws,  Congress  granted  to  every  soldier  who  lost  a  limb 
during  the  war,  an  artificial  limb  or  apparatus  once  in  every 
five  years,  or,  if  he  elected, -money  commutation  therefor. 

There  was  approved  on  July  8,  1870,  an  act  "  to  define 
the  duties  of  pension  agents,  to  prescribe  the  manner  of  pay- 
ing pensions,  and  for  other  purposes."2  This  was  important 
from  an  administrative  standpoint.  It  provided  that  pen- 
sions should  be  paid  quarterly  instead  of  semi-annually,  and 
only  to  the  persons  entitled  thereto,  and  not  to  any  attorney 
or  claim  agent  acting  for  the  pensioner.  The  fees  of  attor- 
neys were  also  regulated.  In  consequence  of  the  provision 
for  quarterly  payment  of  pensions,  the  whole  amount  of 
pensions  accruing  between  March  4,  1870,  and  June  4,  1871, 
a  period  of  fifteen  months,  became  due  and  payable  within 
the  fiscal  year  ending  June  30,  1871.  This  made  the  expen- 
diture during  the  year  1871  larger  by  one-fifth  than  it  would 
normally  have  been. 

Under  the  laws  then  in  force,  pension  expenditures  seemed 
to  have  reached  a  maximum.  The  reported  expenditure  for 
the  year  ending  June  30,  1869,  was  $28,423,000;  for  1870, 
$27,781,000;  and  if  payment  for  but  four  quarters  had  been 

1U.  S.  Statutes  at  Lar%e,  xvi,  153    174.  '*  Ibid.,  xvi,  193-195. 


made  in  the  fiscal  year  1871,  the  amount  for  that  year  would 
probably  have  been  under  $26,500,000.  On  February  14, 
1871,  the  act  granting  service  pensions  on  account  of  the 
War  of  1812  became  law.  This  was  the  culmination  of 
many  attempts  to  enact  a  statute  of  the  kind,  and  for  a  time 
added  considerably  to  the  annual  outlay  for  pensions.  It 
has  been  considered  under  the  treatment  of  War  of  1812 

Commissioner  Baker,  in  his  report  for  1871,  gives  some 
interesting  information  with  regard  to  the  average  pension  at 
that  time.1  He  says  : 

"The  invalid  army  pension  averages  $8.92  per  month;  widows 
and  dependents,  $12.65  ;  navy  invalids,  $9.10  ;  navy  widows,  $15.40. 
The  average  pension  for  all  classes  is  $10.99.  As  a  total  pension  lor 
a  private  is  but  $8  per  month,  this  rating  appears  extraordinary  and 
the  result  was  unexpected.  The  solution  of  this  problem,  so  far  as 
the  invalid  army  and  navy  pensions  are  concerned,  lies  in  the  act  of 
June  6,  1866,  which  establishes  the  most  liberal  rates  for  serious  dis- 
abilities ;  and  those  entitled  have  not  been  slow  to  avail  themselves 
of  this  generous  beneficence.  As  provided  by  this  act  there  are  no 
less  than  15,060  of  the  third  grade  ($15  per  month)  already  on  the 
rolls.  The  high  average  of  widows'  pensions  is  explained  by  the  lib- 
eral provisions  of  the  act  of  July  25,  1866,  which  grants  $2  per 
month  additional  for  each  child  under  sixteen  years  of  age." 

In  the  same  report,  the  Commissioner  also  says : 

"  As  we  recede  from  the  War  of  the  Rebellion,  many  disabilities, 
in  their  nature  temporary,  are  disappearing  by  recuperative  energies, 
and  the  pensioner,  reluctant  to  lose  his  gratuity,  oftentimes  tries  to 
fortify  himself  by  evidence,  which  only  consumes  the  time  and  labor 
of  the  office  to  no  purpose.  In  many  of  the  later  applications  for 
original  pension,  it  is  often  a  matter  of  extreme  doubt  whether  the 
disability  at  this  distant  period  from  the  war  (1871)  actually  had  its 

1  House  Ex.  Doc.,  426.  Cong.,  1871-1872,  Report  of  Sec'y  of  Interior,  Part  i, 
380,  382,  385. 

303]  CIVIL   WAR,  1861-1879  85 

origin  in  the  service,  so  that  the  line  of  demarcation  between  duty 
to  the  Government  and  justice  to  the  soldier  is  difficult  to  find." 

These  words  are  especially  interesting  when  it  is  remem- 
bered that  at  the  present  time  original  invalid  pension  claims 
are  still  being  allowed  on  account  of  service  in  the  Civil  War. 

With  the  multiplication  of  pension  laws,  the  urgent  need 
of  a  codification  was  felt.  The  laws  were  often  confused,  am- 
biguous in  expression  and  contrary  in  provisions.  In  1871 
Commissioner  Baker  recommended  that  all  the  needful  pro- 
visions of  past  legislation,  cleared  of  what  was  doubtful,  con- 
trary or  cumbersome,  be  codified  into  one  act.  He  thought 
that  no  additional  or  more  liberal  legislation  was  needed. 
On  March  3,  1873,  "An  act  to  revise,  consolidate,  and 
amend  the  laws  relating  to  pensions  "  was  approved.1 

This  act  consisted  of  thirty-nine  sections.  It  has  some- 
times been  called  the  "  Consolidation  Act,"  and  was  primarily 
intended  as  a  codification,  revision  and  interpretation  of  the 
numerous  pension  laws  for  which  the  Civil  War  had  furnished 
occasion.  So  many  changes  had  been  introduced  into  the 
law  from  time  to  time,  that  a  reduction  of  the  whole  body  of 
legislation  to  an  intelligible  and  harmonious  system,  had  be- 
come a  necessity. 

However,  this  measure  did  in  some  respects  materially 
change  existing  laws.  New  rates  were  established  for  cer- 
tain kinds  of  specific  disabilities.  The  section  regarding  the 
pensions  of  widows  and  children  was  so  drawn  as  to  increase 
a  large  number  of  pensions  of  this  class,  with  arrears  from 
July  25,  1866.  In  a  number  of  cases  where  there  was  only 
one  surviving  child,  and  the  widow  was  dead  or  debarred 
from  receiving  a  pension,  the  amount  of  the  surviving  child's 
pension  was  increased  two  dollars  per  month.  That  is,  the 
child  was  granted  the  amount  to  which  a  widow  with  one 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xviii,  566  et  seq. 


child  would  be  entitled,  instead  of  the  amount  which  a  widow 
with  no  child  would  receive.  The  provisions  of  this  section 
involved  in  many  cases  seven  years'  arrears  of  increase.  A 
further  demand  upon  the  pension  appropriations  was  caused 
by  the  authorization  of  intermediate  grades  between  eight 
and  eighteen  dollars  for  certain  classes  of  invalid  pensioners 
who  had  been  receiving  the  lower  rate. 

Everything  of  a  permanent  nature  in  the  pension  laws  of 
the  United  States,  down  to  March  4,  1873,  was  included  in 
the  Revised  Statutes  enacted  in  that  year.  Sections  4692  to 
4791,  inclusive,  pertain  to  pensions,  although  many  miscel- 
laneous sections  deal  with  questions  arising  out  of  the  ad- 
ministration of  the  pension  laws. 

Commissioner  Baker,  in  his  report  for  1873,  gives  a  very 
interesting  account  of  the  condition  of  the  widows'  and  de- 
pendent relatives'  roll  at  that  time.1  He  says  : 

"  An  annual  diminution  of  the  widows'  and  dependent  relatives' 
roll  may  hereafter  be  expected  by  reason  of  the  termination  of  minors' 
pensions  (of  which  there  were  on  the  3oth  of  June  last,  34,850)  on 
account  of  the  children  reaching  the  age  of  sixteen  years.  A  very 
careful  and  interesting  analysis  of  this  roll  has  been  made  since  the 
close  of  the  last  fiscal  year,  from  which  it  is  found  that  of  the  112,- 
088  pensioners  upon  it,  21,862  were  widows  without  minor  children  ; 
29,696  were  widows  with  children  to  the  number  of  54,451  under 
sixteen  years  of  age;  34,850  were  minors'  pensions,  with  57,807 
children  receiving  the  benefits  therefrom;  21,852  were  dependent 
mothers;  2,025  were  dependent  fathers;  and  56  were  pensions  to 
brothers  and  sisters  of  deceased  soldiers." 

For  the  first  time  since  1862,  the  pension  roll  on  June  30, 
1874,  showed  a  decrease  in  numbers.  This  decrease  con- 
tinued slowly  but  steadily  until  1879,  when  the  remarkable 
legislation  of  that  year  brought  about  rapid  additions  to  the 
list  of  pensioners.  The  War  of  1812  pension  act  of  1878 

1  House  Ex.  Doc.,  43d  Cong.,  187 '3-1874,  Report of  'Sec 'y  of  'Interior,  Part  i,  306. 

305]  CIVIL  WAR,  1861-1879  37 

also  had  a  similar  effect.  Between  1873  and  1879,  several 
acts  were  passed  making  decided  increases  in  the  rates  for 
specific  disabilities.  In  spite  of  these  laws,  the  expenditure 
for  pensions,  as  well  as  the  number  of  pensioners,  declined 
during  that  period,  with  the  exception  of  a  slight  increase 
in  1877.  The  Arrears  of  Pensions  Act  of  January  25,  1879, 
and  the  supplementary  provisions  contained  in  the  arrears 
appropriation  act  of  March  3,  1879,  marked  a  new  era  in 
the  history  of  pension  legislation.  The  next  chapter  will 
open  with  a  study  of  this  Arrears  Act. 



To  understand  clearly  the  Arrears  Act  of  1879,  it  is 
necessary  to  review  previous  provisions  with  regard  to  the 
commencement  of  pensions  granted  on  account  of  service  in 
the  Civil  War.  The  act  of  July  14,  1862,  provided  that  in- 
valid pensions  should  commence  from  the  date  of  discharge 
in  all  cases  in  which  the  application  should  be  filed  within 
one  year  after  that  date ;  otherwise  the  pension  was  to  com- 
mence from  the  date  of  filing  the  application.  Pensions  to 
widows  and  dependent  relatives  were  to  commence,  without 
limitation  as  to  the  date  of  application,  from  the  death  of 
the  soldier  on  whose  account  the  pension  in  question  was 
granted.  Further  provisions  regarding  the  commencement 
of  pensions  were  made  in  1864  and  1866,  and  the  whole 
matter  was  left  in  a  state  neither  clear  nor  satisfactory. 
Without  going  into  confusing  details,  it  is  enough  to  point 
out  that  under  the  existing  provisions  there  was  great  danger 
of  unjust  discrimination  between  claims  of  equal  merit. 

The  act  of  July  27, 1868,  granted  arrears  and  made  a  fresh 
start.  Section  six  of  this  law  provided  that  all  pensions 
which  had  been  granted,  in  consequence  of  death  occurring, 
or  disease  contracted,  or  wounds  received  since  March  4, 
1 86 1,  or  which  might  thereafter  be  granted,  should  com- 
mence from  the  discharge  or  death  of  the  person  on  whose 
account  the  pension  had  been  or  might  be  granted.  In  order 
to  secure  the  benefits  of  this  provision,  it  was  required  that 
applications  for  pensions  should  be  filed  with  the  Commis- 
88  [306 

307]  ARREARS  ACT  TO  1890  89 

sioner  of  Pensions  within  five  years  after  the  right  thereto 
had  accrued,  but  applications  by  or  in  behalf  of  insane  per- 
sons and  children  under  sixteen  years  of  age  might  be  filed 
after  the  expiration  of  the  five  years,  if  previously  they  were 
without  guardians  or  other  legal  representatives. 

The  above  law  involved  the  payment  of  considerable  ar- 
rears, but  it  served  to  establish  a  definite  basis  for  the  com- 
mencement of  pensions.  This  same  provision  was  substan- 
tially incorporated  in  the  important  Consolidation  Act  of 
March  3,  1873,  which  provided  that  pensions  should  com- 
mence from  the  death  or  discharge  of  the  person  on  whose 
account  the  claim  had  been  or  should  thereafter  be  granted, 
or  from  the  termination  of  the  right  of  the  party  having  prior 
title  to  the  pension,  provided  that  the  application  had  been 
or  should  be  filed  within  five  years  after  the  right  to  pension 
had  accrued.  Otherwise  the  pension  was  to  commence  from 
the  date  of  filing  the  last  evidence  necessary  to  establish  the 
claim.  This  five  years'  limitation  was  subsequently  embodied 
in  the  Revised  Statutes,  and  remained  in  force  until  the  pas- 
sage of  the  Arrears  Act. 

It  would  seem  that  a  period  of  five  years  after  his  dis- 
charge afforded  to  the  soldier  sufficient  opportunity  to  dis- 
cover whether  or  not  he  was  suffering  from  any  disability, 
and,  in  case  he  was  disabled,  to  file  an  application  for  a 
pension.  Where  he  did  not  file  an  application  within  five 
years,  there  seems  to  be  presumptive  evidence  that,  from  his 
own  standpoint,  he  either  did  not  deserve  or  did  not  need  a 
pension.  If  later  he  applied  for  a  pension,  it  is  hard  to  see 
any  sound  reason  for  paying  him  arrears  from  the  date  of 
his  discharge  from  the  army.  Certainly,  the  most  that  could 
with  any  show  of  justice  be  asked  is  that  the  pension  should 
date  from  the  time  of  filing  the  application.  And  this  has 
not  proved  in  practice  a  faultless  rule,  for  it  has  given  op- 
portunity for  the  resurrection  of  worthless  claims,  which 


have  long  been  dormant,  and  for  the  completion  of  the  evi- 
dence by  fraudulent  means  in  order  to  obtain  large  sums 
of  arrears.  The  safest  rule,  which  may  of  course  work  hard- 
ship in  some  cases,  is  to  date  the  pension  from  the  comple- 
tion of  the  last  evidence  necessary  to  establish  the  claim. 

Early  in  the  seventies,  the  number  of  pensioners  and  the 
expenditures  for  their  payment  showed  signs  of  having 
reached  a  maximum  under  existing  laws.  For  a  time,  any 
marked  tendency  towards  a  decrease  was  checked,  largely 
by  the  passage  of  the  act  of  February  14,  1871,  granting 
service  pensions  on  account  of  the  War  of  1812.  But,  as 
has  been  noted,  in  the  fiscal  year  1874  the  pension  list 
decreased  in  numbers  from  the  previous  year  for  the  first 
time  since  1862.  This  decrease  continued  until  1879,  when 
the  War  of  1812  pension  act  of  1878,  and  the  Arrears  Act, 
reversed  the  process.  Likewise  the  annual  pension  expendi- 
ture decreased  from  $30,594,000  in  1874  to  $26,844,000  in 
1878.  Beginning  as  early  as  1869  and  1870,  there  was  also 
a  notable  falling  off  in  the  number  of  original  claims  pre- 
sented on  account  of  service  in  the  Civil  War.  The  number 
of  original  claims  filed  under  the  general  law — practically  all 
Civil  War  claims — was  24,851  in  1870,  18,154  in  1871,  16,030 
in  1872,  15,523  in  1873, and  15, 284 in  1874.'  During  1871  and 
1872,  the  claim  agents  were  kept  busy  pressing  claims  under 
the  War  of  1812  pension  act  of  1871.  After  these  were  dis- 
posed of,  the  agents  displayed  greater  activity  in  stimulating 
new  Civil  War  claims.  As  a  consequence,  there  was  a  con- 
siderable increase  in  the  number  of  new  claims  presented  in 
the  years  from  1875  to  1878.  But,  with  all  their  efforts,  the 
agents  found  original  applications  more  and  more  difficult  to 
secure,  and  to  prevent  the  loss  of  their  lucrative  business  be- 
gan an  aggressive  agitation  for  new  legislation. 

The  increased  activities  of  the  pension  attorneys  received 

1  Compiled  from  the  Report  of  the  Commissioner  of  Pensions  for  1898. 

209]  ARREARS  ACT  TO  1890  91 

considerable  attention  in  the  report  of  Commissioner  of  Pen- 
sions Bentley  for  the  year  1878.*  He  said  that  the  country 
was  being  continually  advertised  and  drummed  from  one  end 
to  the  other  by  claim  agents  in  pursuit  of  persons  who  had 
honest  claims,  or  of  those  who  were  willing,  in  consideration 
of  the  fact  that  it  would  cost  them  nothing  unless  they  won 
their  pensions,  to  file  claims  which  had  no  merit,  leaving  it 
to  the  ingenuity  and  cupidity  of  their  agents  to  "  work  "  the 
cases  through.  The  Commissioner  also  called  attention  to 
the  fact  that  professional  claim  agents  and  claim  firms  at 
Washington  and  other  points  were  advertising  their  business 
by  "  employing  for  that  purpose  in  some  instances  sheets  is- 
sued in  the  form  of  periodical  newspapers  purporting  to  be 
published  iti  the  interest  of  the  soldiers,  the  columns  of 
which  contained  matter  in  which  apparent  anxiety  for  the 
soldiers'  welfare  and  appeals  to  their  love  of  gain  were  cun- 
ningly intermingled."  These  sheets  always  represented  the 
advertisers  as  in  the  enjoyment  of  special  and  peculiar  facil- 
ities for  the  successful  prosecution  of  claims,  and  usually 
added  the  suggestion  that  no  charge  would  be  made  unless 
a  pension  should  be  obtained. 

All  of  this  agitation  and  advertisement  had  its  effect  in 
producing  a  demand  for  pensions  throughout  the  country. 
Congress  received  numerous  petitions  for  arrears  and  addi- 
tional legislation.  An  act  granting  arrears  was  introduced 
in  the  44th  Congress,  but  the  proposal  was  killed  in  com- 
mittee. In  the  45th  Congress,  the  Arrears  Act,  which  finally 
became  a  law,  was  introduced  by  Mr.  Cummings,  of  Iowa, 
on  April  2,  1878.  The  bill  was  referred  to  the  Committee 
on  Invalid  Pensions,  and  ordered  printed.2  On  June  19, 
under  a  suspension  of  the  rules,  and,  without  any  discussion 
whatever,  the  Committee  on  Invalid  Pensions  was  discharged 

1  House  Ex.  Doc.,  1878-1879,  ix,  813-837. 

3  Cong.  Record,  2d  Sess.,  45th  Cong.,  1878,  vii,  Part  iii,  2217. 


from  further  consideration  of  this  measure,  and  it  was  passed 
with  an  amendment  providing  that  no  claim  agent  or  other 
person  should  be  entitled  to  receive  any  compensation  for 
services  in  making  application  for  arrears  in  pensions.  The 
vote  on  the  bill  was  yeas,  164;  nays,  61  ;  not  voting,  65.' 
In  the  House,  the  political  majority  was  Democratic.  The 
bill  was  sent  to  the  Senate,  where  it  was  referred  to  the  Com- 
mittee on  Pensions  and  not  reported  at  this  session.2 

Upon  a  superficial  observation,  the  amendment,  forbidding 
claim  agents  to  receive  compensation  for  services  in  making 
application  for  arrears,  may  seem  to  have  deprived  them  of 
all  pecuniary  interest  in  the  passage  of  the  measure. 
Nothing  could  be  further  from  the  truth.  In  fact,  the 
amendment  served  as  a  cunning  blind,  and  gave  to  the  bill 
the  appearance  of  being  wholly  for  the  benefit  of  the  soldiers 
and  their  dependent  relatives.  The  great  point  of  import- 
ance in  this  legislation  was  not  that  it  granted  millions  of 
arrears  on  claims  already  allowed,  but  that  it  granted  on  all 
original  claims,  which  might  thereafter  be  allowed,  arrears 
dating  from  the  time  of  death  or  discharge.  Here  was  a 
premium  of  about  one  thousand  dollars  placed  upon  the  es- 
tablishment of  each  new  claim,  and  this  premium  growing 
in  amount  year  by  year.  It  needed  no  unusual  keenness  to 
perceive  that  this  extraordinary  stimulus  would  enable  the 
claim  agents  to  bring  upon  the  Pension  Bureau  a  flood  of 
original  claims  from  all  parts  of  the  country.  Upon  such 
claims  the  agents  were  at  that  time  legally  entitled  to  col- 
lect a  fee  not  greater  than  ten  dollars,  without  taking  into 
consideration  such  sums  as  they  might  obtain  by  their  com- 
mon evasions  and  violations  of  the  law.3  This  whole  aspect 
of  the  Arrears  Act  was  utterly  ignored  in  Congress. 

1  Cong.  Record,  2d  Sess.,  45th  Cong.,  1878,  vii,  Part  v,  4874-4875. 

f  Ibid.,  Part  v,  4865. 

8  The  prohibition  of  compensation  to  agents  for  service  in  making  application 

3n]  ARREARS  ACT  TO  1890  93 

With  the  arrears  measure  passed  in  the  House  and  await- 
ing the  consideration  of  the  Senate  at  the  next  session,  its 
advocates  devoted  the  intervening  time  to  the  circulation  of 
petitions  and  to  the  continuance  of  their  agitation.  The 
Grand  Army  of  the  Republic  was  not  yet  the  efficient  organ 
in  the  pursuit  of  pensions  which  it  has  since  become.  Or- 
ganized in  1866,  its  motives  were  for  some  years  entirely 
praiseworthy.  It  sought  to  perpetuate  old  friendships  and 
memories,  and  provide  for  the  mutual  support  and  assistance 
of  the  comrades  of  the  war.  Such  recommendations  as  it 
made  to  Congress  in  behalf  of  the  old  soldiers  were  quite 
beyond  criticism.  It  was  not  until  after  1880  that  the  or- 
ganization began  to  serve  as  a  mighty  machine  for  the  pros- 
ecution of  the  claims  of  the  soldiers  of  the  Civil  War  upon 
the  National  Treasury.  However,  at  the  annual  encamp- 
ment in  1878,  General  John  C.  Robinson,  Commander-in- 
Chief,  called  attention,  in  his  address,  to  the  introduction  of 
the  Arrears  Act  in  Congress,  He  said  that  he  had  been 
struck  with  the  justice  of  the  measure,  and  that  he  had 
immediately  brought  it  to  the  attention  of  the  department 
commanders,  hoping  that  action  by  the  several  department 
encampments  might  have  an  important  bearing  on  its  suc- 
cess. At  the  next  annual  encampment,  General  Robinson 
was  able  to  report  that  the  Arrears  Bill  had  become  law.1 

At  the  third  session  of  the  45th  Congress,  the  movement 
for  arrears  was  strongly  felt  in  the  Senate.  Several  bills  on 
the  subject  were  introduced,  and  from  all  sections  of  the 
country  came  numerous  petitions  in  favor  of  the  measure 

for  arrears  should  be  received  with  considerable  allowance.  It  can  hardly  be 
thought  that  the  average  claimant,  who  had  just  received,  through  the  efforts  of  an 
agent,  from  several  hundred  to  a  thousand  dollars  of  arrears  in  a  lump  sum,  would 
make  any  objection  to  paying  the  agent  under  some  pretext  or  subterfuge  an  ade- 
quate and  sometimes  exorbitant  fee. 

1  See  article  on  "  The  Grand  Army  as  a  Pension  Agency,"  forum,  xv,  527. 


which  had  passed  the  House  at  the  second  session.  One 
memorial  from  an  association  of  pensioners  included  a  for- 
mer estimate  made  by  the  Pension  Bureau  of  the  probable 
amount  which  would  be  necessary  to  pay  arrears  to  January 
I,  1876.  Basing  their  figures  on  this  report,  the  memorial- 
ists urged  that  fifteen  millions  of  dollars  would  suffice  to 
meet  the  arrears  provided  by  the  House  bill.  They  referred 
to  the  fact  that  six  State  Legislatures  had  recommended  the 
passage  of  the  bill,  "  while  numerous  organizations  have 
made  similar  recommendations,  and  petitions  of  over  two 
hundred  thousand  citizens  to  the  same  effect  have  been  filed 
in  Congress."  The  passage  of  the  Arrears  Act  was  urged 
"  in  behalf  of  honesty,  equity,  justice  and  morality,  and  in 
upholding  and  maintaining  the  national  faith  which  has  been 
pledged  to  the  payment  of  this  just  debt."1 

On  January  16,  1879,  the  House  arrears  bill  was  taken  up 
in  the  Senate  and  considered.  The  debate  on  the  matter 
was  most  inadequate.  Senator  Ingalls,  who  was  in  charge 
of  the  bill,  thought  that  from  eighteen  to  twenty  million  dol- 
lars would  be  required  to  pay  arrears  on  claims  already  al- 
lowed, but  admitted  that  these  estimates  were  very  largely 
in  the  nature  of  surmises.  The  important  questions  of  the 
cost  of  arrears  on  pension  claims  yet  to  be  allowed,  and  of 
the  effect  of  the  measure  in  stimulating  new  applications, 
were  entirely  dodged.  In  fact,  the  advocates  of  the  Arrears 
Act  seem  to  have  given  the  impression,  whether  intention- 
ally or  not,  that  the  bill  would  take  only  some  twenty 
million  dollars  from  the  Treasury.  They  resolutely  opposed 
any  amendment,  and  the  measure  was  passed  as  it  came  from 
the  House  by  yeas,  44 ;  nays,  4;  absent,  28.2  Having  been 
adopted  by  overwhelming  majorities  in  both  the  Democratic 
House  and  the  Republican  Senate,  the  bill  went  to  the  Pres- 

1  Cong.  Record,  1878-1879,  viii,  Part  i,  373.  *  Ibid.,  Part  i,  484-494. 

*U  \nSRSlTT 

3!  3]  ARREARS  ACT  TO  1890  95 

ident  for  his  approval.  Already  serious  misgivings,  as  to  its 
probable  effects,  were  being  expressed  by  Secretary  of  the 
Interior  Schurz  and  Secretary  of  the  Treasury  Sherman,  but 
even  they  had  no  adequate  conception  of  the  vast  expendi- 
tures to  be  required.  The  pressure  for  the  act  was  great, 
and  it  received  the  signature  of  President  Hayes  on  January 
25,  I879.1 

The  Arrears  Act,  in  substance,  provided  that  all  pensions 
which  had  been  granted  under  the  general  laws  regulating 
pensions,  or  which  should  thereafter  be  granted,  in  conse- 
quence of  death  from  a  cause  which  originated  in  the  United 
States  service  during  the  Civil  War,  or  in  consequence  of 
wounds,  injuries,  or  disease  received  or  contracted  in  that 
service,  should  commence  from  the  date  of  the  death  or 
discharge  of  the  person  on  whose  account  the  pension  had 
been  or  should  thereafter  be  granted,  or  from  the  termina- 
tion of  the  right  of  the  party  having  prior  title  to  the  pension. 
The  rate  of  pension  for  the  intervening  time  for  which  arrears 
were  allowed  was  to  be  the  same  per  month  as  that  for  which 
the  pension  was  originally  granted.  Rules  and  regulations 
were  to  be  adopted  by  the  Commissioner  of  Pensions  for  the 
payment  of  arrears  to  each  pensioner  entitled,  or,  if  the  pen- 
sioner should  have  died,  to  the  person  or  persons  entitled  to 
the  same.  A  requirement  of  record  evidence  from  the  War 
or  Navy  Department  in  cases  not  prosecuted  to  a  successful 
issue  within  five  years  was  repealed.  As  previously  men- 
tioned, the  act  forbade  claim  agents  to  receive  compensation 
for  services  in  making  application  for  arrears  of  pension. 
All  conflicting  acts  or  parts  of  acts  were  repealed. 

Soon  after  the  passage  of  the  Arrears  Act,  new  claims 
began  to  be  presented  at  the  Pension  Bureau  with  unex- 
ampled rapidity.  Secretary  Schurz  thought  the  existing 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Lar%e,  xx,  265. 


system  of  adjudication  utterly  inadequate  to  handle  them 
with  justice  to  the  pensioner  and  proper  safeguards  to  the 
Government.  On  February  4,  1879,  the  Commissioner  of 
Pensions  estimated  that  $34,000,000  would  be  required  to 
pay  the  arrears  on  claims  which  had  been  allowed  prior  to 
January  25,  1879;  $2,500,000  for  arrears  upon  claims  al- 
lowed and  to  be  allowed  between  January  25  and  June  30, 
1879,  and  $5,000,000  to  pay  arrears  upon  claims  which 
would  be  allowed  in  the  fiscal  year  ending  June  30,  1880.' 
Adopting  this  estimate,  the  Secretary  of  the  Treasury  recom- 
mended to  Congress  that  bonds  be  sold  to  meet  a  prospective 
deficit  in  the  national  budget  for  the  year  i88o.2  However, 
in  making  the  above  report  and  estimate,  the  Commissioner 
of  Pensions  called  attention  to  some  manifest  defects  in  the 
loosely  drawn  Arrears  Act,  and  recommended  to  Congress 
some  changes  and  explanatory  provisions.  If  these  recom- 
mendations were  adopted,  he  thought  the  arrears  on  claims 
allowed  prior  to  January  25,  1879,  could  be  reduced  to 
$25,000,000,  and  that  the  amount  of  arrears  to  be  paid  on 
claims  allowed  after  that  date  would  be  materially  lessened. 
In  the  meantime,  he  delayed  the  final  adjustment  of  all  pend- 
ing claims. 

The  Commissioner  also  called  the  attention  of  Congress  to 
the  extraordinary  facilities  for  the  successful  prosecution  of 
fraudulent  and  unmeritorious  claims  afforded  by  the  existing 
ex  parte  system  of  evidence.  He  asked  Congress  for  relief 
along  the  lines  recommended  in  previous  reports,  and  said : 

"  As  the  law  stood  previous  to  the  passage  of  the  Arrears  Act  the 
temptation  to  fraud  was  very  great,  but  since  that  act  it  is  many 
times  increased.  Then  the  claims  were  comparatively  few  in  which 
any  considerable  sum  of  money  would  be  the  immediate  reward  of 
a  successfully  prosecuted  claim,  but  since  that  act  every  invalid  claim 

1  House  Ex.  Doc.,  3d  Sess.,  45th  Con.,  1878-1879,  xvi,  no.  75. 
a  Ibid.,  Document  no.  85. 

315]  ARREARS  ACT  TO  1890  gy 

allowed,  as  well  as  many  of  the  other  classes,  will  have  in  it  from  sev- 
eral hundred  to  several  thousand  dollars  due  the  claimant  at  the  first 

"  It  is  estimated  by  those  best  informed  that  there  have  been  not 
less  than  $2,000,000  paid  out  annually  for  fraudulent  pensions.  In 
my  judgment,  the  estimate  is  below,  rather  than  above,  the  actual 

"  With  the  temptation  to  the  commission  of  fraud  so  greatly  in- 
creased, and  the  road  to  the  Treasury  easy  through  ex  parte  pro- 
ceedings, the  consequences  can  easily  be  foretold.  Not  only  will 
the  people  be  taxed  to  pay  an  annual  tribute  to  the  unworthy 
amounting  to  several  millions  of  dollars,  but  with  so  many  claims 
pending,  and  still  to  be  presented,  and  the  avenues  to  the  two  or 
three  hundred  persons,  more  or  less,  who  are  charged  with  their  ad- 
justment, open  for  the  approach  of  interested  parties,  it  will  be  little 
less  than  a  miracle  if  extensive  official  corruption  does  not  follow." 

Later  in  the  same  session  of  Congress  at  which  the  Ar- 
rears Act  was  passed,  a  bill  making  appropriations  for  ar- 
rears was  introduced  into  the  House,  and  passed  without 
much  consideration.1  It  carried  an  appropriation  of  $25,- 
000,000  for  the  arrears  due  on  pensions  which  had  been  al- 
lowed prior  to  January  25,  1879,  and  an  appropriation  of 
$1,800,000  for  arrears  on  claims  to  be  allowed  between 
January  25,  1879,  and  June  30,  the  end  of  the  fiscal  year. 
In  the  Senate,  this  bill  and  proposed  amendments  were  the 
occasion  of  a  considerable  discussion.2  Several  of  these 
amendments  were  very  important,  and  were  accepted  by  the 
House.  They  embodied  in  part  suggestions  made  by  the 
Commissioner  of  Pensions.3 

1  Cong.  Record,  1878-1879,  viii,  Part  ii,  1487-1488. 

2  Ibid.,  1878-1879,  viii,  Part  iii,  1980, 1981-1984,  2033-2040,  2042-2051,  2052- 
2058,  2223-2243. 

3  One  amendment,  proposed  in  the  Senate,  was  designed  to  change  the  system  of 
adjudication  of  pension  claims  in  accordance  with  the  recommendation  of  the 
Secretary  of  the  Interior  and  the  Commissioner  of  Pensions.     It  contemplated 


It  is  interesting  in  this  debate  to  find  that  the  Senate 
had  awakened  to  some  idea  of  the  great  cost  of  the  Arrears 
Act.  It  was  freely  alleged  that  Senator  Ingalls  and  the 
other  advocates  of  the  arrears  bill  had  given  the  impression 
that  "  the  amount  to  be  taken  out  of  the  Treasury  by  the 
arrears  of  pensions  bill  could  not  exceed  $20,000,000  at  the 
outside."  Senator  Thurman,  of  Ohio,  said  : 

"  The  very  next  thing  after  the  passage  of  the  bill  that  I  heard 
was  that  the  Commissioner  of  Pensions  required  $4,000,000  for  the 
present  fiscal  year,  and  thirty  odd  millions  for  the  next  fiscal  year, 
and  there  is  no  telling  where  it  is  to  end ;  and  we  are  told  in  some 
quarters  that  it  will  take  fifty,  some  say  sixty,  and  some  say  one  hun- 
dred millions  out  of  the  Treasury.  I  must  say  that,  if  that  is  so, 
there  was  a  grievous  error  somewhere,  a  grievous  mistake  some- 
where when  the  arrears  of  pensions  bill  was  considered." 

Senators  Conkling  and  Ingalls  had  a  sharp  dispute  as  to 
whether  Mr.  Ingalls  had  misled  the  Senate  at  the  time  of  the 
passage  of  the  Arrears  Act.  Conkling  had  the  better  of  the 
argument,  for  whether  Ingalls  meant  to  mislead  the  Senate 
or  not,  his  words  on  the  occasion  in  question  were  well  calcu- 
lated to  do  so. 

While  refusing  to  authorize  the  sale  of  bonds  to  pay  the 
arrears,  the  Senate  was  willing  to  add  to  this  appropriation 
bill  an  innocent  little  "  rider "  providing,  "  That  the  law 

the  division  of  the  country  into  not  to  exceed  sixty  districts  for  the  purposes  of 
pension  administration.  At  various  points  in  each  of  these  districts,  a  commission, 
consisting  of  an  experienced  surgeon  and  a  legal  clerk,  was  to  sit  and  personally 
examine  claimants  and  witnesses,  thus  doing  away  with  the  ex  parte  system  of 
testimony.  The  testimony  was  to  be  forwarded  to  the  Commissioner  of  Pensions, 
for  the  adjustment  and  settlement  of  claims.  The  scheme  was  designed  to  pre- 
vent frauds  which  were  variously  estimated  to  amount  to  from  ten  to  twenty  per 
cent,  of  the  pension  list.  It  was  bitterly  opposed  by  the  clique  of  Washington 
pension  attorneys,  who  imputed  partisan  motives  to  its  advocates.  Some  of  the 
senators  thought  the  measure  capable  of  abuse  to  secure  the  soldiers'  votes.  The 
amendment  was  rejected. 

3!  7]  ARREARS  ACT  TO  1890  gg 

granting  pensions  to  the  soldiers  and  their  widows  of  the 
War  of  1 8 12,  approved  March  9,  1878,  is  hereby  made  ap- 
plicable in  all  its  provisions  to  the  soldiers  and  sailors  who 
served  in  the  War  with  Mexico  of  1846."  The  bill  was 
passed  with  this  amendment,  which  received  absolutely  no 
consideration.  A  motion  to  reconsider  was  entered  by 
Senator  Windom.  Some  days  later,  when  he  pointed  out 
that  "  the  little  proposition  so  good-naturedly  introduced  by 
the  Senator  from  Missouri  and  so  good-naturedly  supported 
by  a  majority  of  the  Senate  the  other  evening  would  take 
from  thirty  to  forty  millions  out  of  the  Treasury,"  the  vote 
by  which  the  bill  passed  was  reconsidered.  The  amendment 
was  struck  out  after  a  debate  in  which  the  old  question  of 
loyalty  and  disloyalty  during  the  Civil  War  came  up,  and 
considerable  partisan  acrimony  was  shown.  One  is  tempted 
to  believe  that  some  of  the  Senators  who  had  voted  for  the 
"  rider"  were  glad  of  the  opportunity  to  plead  as  an  excuse 
for  changing  their  votes  the  fact  that  the  provision  would 
have  the  pernicious  effect  of  pensioning  Jefferson  Davis  and 
other  ex-Confederates.  After  being  passed  again,  the  bill 
was  sent  to  the  House  with  a  number  of  Senate  amendments 
which  were  concurred  in.  It  was  approved  on  March  3, 

The  Senate  amendments  provided  that  the  rate,  at  which 
the  arrears  of  invalid  pensions  should  be  allowed  and  com- 
puted, should  be  graded  according  to  the  degree  of  the  pen- 
sioner's disability  from  time  to  time,  and  the  provisions  of 
pension  law  in  force  over  the  period  for  which  arrears  were 
granted.  In  no  case  was  a  pension  to  be  allowed  and  paid 
from  a  time  prior  to  the  date  of  actual  disability.  It  was 
also  provided  that  arrears  of  pension  should  be  granted  only 
where  the  application  for  the  pension  had  been  or  should 
thereafter  be  filed  with  the  Commissioner  of  Pensions  prior  to 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xx,  469. 


the  first  day  of  July,  eighteen  hundred  and  eighty ;  other- 
wise the  pension  was  to  commence  from  the  date  of  fil- 
ing the  application.  This  limitation  did  not  apply  to  claims 
by  or  in  behalf  of  insane  persons  and  children  under  sixteen 
years  of  age.  The  introduction  of  such  a  limitation  is  most 
important,  although  it  is  directly  contrary  to  the  principle 
on  which  the  Arrears  Act  was  passed.  The  advocates  of  the 
act  had  urged  that  the  interposition  of  any  statute  of  limita- 
tion against  the  full  satisfaction  of  the  claims  of  the  ex- 
soldiers  was  a  despicable  defense  on  the  part  of  the  National 
Government.  They  sought  to  place  the  Government  in  the 
position  of  a  debtor  avoiding  a  just  settlement  with  creditors 
holding  claims  of  a  most  sacred  nature.  Nevertheless,  it  was 
the  introduction  of  a  limitation  that  saved  the  arrears  mon- 
strosity from  being  utterly  unendurable.  Expensive  and 
harmful  as  the  amended  measure  was,  there  was  a  prospect 
of  some  end  to  the  drains  upon  the  National  Treasury.  Left 
in  its  original  form,  the  premium  upon  the  successful  prose- 
cution of  a  pension  claim  would  have  grown  greater  with  the 
lapse  of  each  year.  Claims  might  be  presented  today 
and  allowed  with  arrears  dating  back  to  the  Civil  War. 
Under  such  a  law,  who  could  estimate  the  inducement  to 
fraud,  or  count  the  cost?  It  was  well  that  Congress  pro- 
vided some  bar  against  the  enormous  demands  which  were 
impending  on  the  Treasury. 

In  his  report  for  the  year  ending  June  30,  1879,  the  Com- 
missioner of  Pensions  spoke  of  the  pressure  upon  his  office 
which  the  Arrears  Act  was  causing.1  He  said : 

"Since  the  act  of  January  25,  1879,  commonly  known  as  the  Ar- 
rears Act,  the  new  claims  of  invalids,  widows,  minor  children  and 
dependent  relatives  have  come  in  at  an  unprecedented  rate,  the  in- 
valids at  a  rate  more  than  double  that  ever  before  known  in  the  his- 

1  House  Ex.  Doc.,  zd  Sess.,  46th  Cong.,  1879-1880,  Report  of  the  Secretary  of 
Interior,  ii,  282. 

ARREARS  ACT  TO  1890  lOI 

tory  of  the  office,  except  in  the  year  1866,  and  within  a  few  hundred 
of  double  the  rate  of  that  year,  which,  it  will  be  noted,  was  the  year 
following  the  disbandment  of  the  armies,  when  all  the  sick  and  dis- 
abled soldiers  became  at  once  entitled  to  apply  for  pension,  while 
the  rate  of  the  receipt  of  widows',  children's,  and  dependent  rela- 
tives' claims  is  greater  than  that  of  any  year  since  1867,  and  more 
than  twice  the  rate  of  any  year  since  1871. 

Added  to  this  inflow  of  new  business  is  the  pressure  of  all  the 
older  claims  for  an  early  settlement,  which  was  great  and  constantly 
increasing  before  the  passage  of  the  Arrears  Act,  but  since  its  pass- 
age overwhelms  the  office  with  repeated  demands  of  claimants  for 
the  adjustment  of  their  claims,  and  altogether  the  current  work  of 
the  office  is  greatly  increased  and  has  been  thrown  so  far  in  ar- 
rears that  there  are  many  and  very  serious  complaints  at  the  delays 
in  answering  the  inquiries  relative  to  pending  claims." 

The  Commissioner  again  pointed  out  the  wretched  in- 
efficiency of  the  ex  parte  system  of  adjudicating  claims. 

"Besides  being  cumbersome  and  expensive,"  said  he,  "the  present 
system  is  an  open  door  to  the  Treasury  for  the  perpetration  of  fraud. 
The  affidavits  in  support  oi  the  claims  have  the  same  appearance  to 
the  officers  of  the  Bureau,  whether  true  or  false.  *  *  *  There 
is  another  aspect  of  the  ex  parte  system  which  should  receive  the 
most  earnest  consideration  on  the  part  of  the  Government,  and  that 
is  its  fruitfulness  of  crime  against  the  laws,  in  the  nature  of  perjury, 
forgery  and  false  personation." 

This  was  the  claim  agents'  harvest  time.  A  thousand  dol- 
lars or  more  at  the  first  payment  was  a  strong  incentive  to 
the  presentation  of  new  claims.  In  the  months  of  the  fiscal 
year  1879,  during  which  the  Arrears  Act  was  in  operation, 
such  claims  were  filed  many  times  as  fast  as  during  the  first 
half  of  the  same  year.  The  full  effect  of  the  Arrears  Act 
in  the  stimulation  of  original  claims  was  not  felt  until  the 
fiscal  year  ending  June  30,  1880.  During  that  year  the  total 
number  of  original  claims  filed  for  invalids,  widows  and  de- 
pendent relatives  on  account  of  services  in  the  Civil  War 


was  138,195.  The  number  of  such  claims  filed  in  1878  was 
26,304,  and  in  1879,  47,416.  In  the  single  month  of  June, 
1880,  just  before  the  limitation  upon  the  allowance  of  arrears 
went  into  effect,  there  were  44,532  original  Civil  War  claims 
filed.  This  was  nearly  as  many  as  in  the  whole  fiscal  year 
1879.  The  total  disbursements  for  pensions  were,  in  the 
fiscal  year  1880,  $57,240,000  as  compared  with  $26,844,000 
in  1878,  and  $33,780,000  in  1879.' 

In  the  years  1881  and  1882,  it  became  apparent  that  the 
arrears  of  pensions  on  claims  allowed  prior  to  January  25, 
1879,  would  reach  nearly  $25,000,000,  the  amount  estimated 
by  Commissioner  Bentley  just  after  the  passage  of  the  Ar- 
rears Act.  It  also  became  clear  that  the  great  cost  of  the 
measure  would  result  from  a  feature  entirely  ignored  upon 
its  original  passage,  that  is,  the  granting  of  arrears  upon 
each  claim  allowed  after  January  25,  1879,  (provided,  by 
the  amendment  of  March  3,  1879,  that  such  claims  were 
filed  before  January  I,  1880).  This  feature  gave  the  great- 
est incentive  to  extraordinary  efforts  for  the  establishment  of 
new  claims  by  fair  means  or  foul. 

The  average  first  payment,  in  1 88 1,  to  an  army  invalid 
was  $953.62  ;  to  army  widows,  minor  children  and  dependent 
relatives  $1,021.51;  to  navy  invalids,  $771.42;  to  navy 
widows,  minor  children  and  dependent  relatives,  $790.22. 
Provided  that  claims  were  originally  filed  within  the  pre- 
scribed time,  delay  in  the  completion  of  proof  simply  in- 
creased the  allowance  in  prospect  at  the  first  payment,  and 
the  prize  grew  greater  as  the  years  passed  by.  The  system 
put  a  premium  upon  fraud,  the  method  of  adjudication  facil- 
itated fraud,  and  there  is  no  doubt  in  the  mind  of  the  writer 
that  fraud  was  an  element  in  the  establishment  of  many 
claims  under  the  Arrears  Act. 

1  The  statistics  in  this  chapter  are  compiled  from  the  annual  Reports  of  the 
Commissioner  of  Pensions  for  the  years  in  questions. 

32  I  ]  ARREARS  ACT  TO  1890  103 

Besides  the  great  total  which  the  first  payments  reached 
annually,  the  ordinary  payments  for  an  indefinite  series  of 
years  were  increased  to  an  extent  which  would  have  been 
impossible  but  for  the  unnatural  stimulus  to  the  presenta- 
tion of  claims.  The  cost  of  the  Arrears  Act  in  this  respect 
is  enormous,  but  cannot  be  calculated.  It  is  not  possible  to 
estimate  accurately  the  number  of  claims  which  would  have 
been  filed  if  the  act  had  not  been  passed.  Statistics  have 
shown  us,  however,  that  the  increase  in  the  number  of 
claims  which  followed  its  passage  was  immediate  and  un- 

Under  date  of  January  25,  1886,  General  J.  C.  Black, 
Commissioner  of  Pensions,  estimated  that,  up  to  June  30, 
1885,  the  aggregate  of  arrears  paid  under  the  act  of  1879 
was  $179,400,000.  This  leaves  out  of  consideration  the  cost 
to  the  Government  resulting  from  the  extraordinary  stimulus 
afforded  by  the  Arrears  Act,  to  the  presentation  of  new 
claims.  In  its  national  platform  of  1884,  the  Republican 
party  pledged  itself  to  the  repeal  of  the  limitation  contained 
in  the  Arrears  Act.  In  1890,  it  was  officially  estimated 
that  the  cost  of  a  repeal  of  that  limitation  would  be  $471,- 
000,000. x  The  pledge  has  not  been  fulfilled.  While,  from 
the  nature  of  the  problem,  the  exact  cost  of  the  Arrears  Act 
cannot  be  ascertained,  we  have  indisputable  evidence  that 
it  has  reached  hundreds  of  millions  of  dollars.  Thus,  at  the 
expense  of  the  nation,  has  been  demonstrated  the  mon- 
strous character  of  this  measure,  passed  under  the  assump- 
tion that  it  would  take  about  twenty  millions  from  the 

The  following  table  is  valuable  in  the  study  of  the  effects 
of  the  Arrears  Act.2  It  shows  the  amounts  of  disburse- 

1  Senate  Reports,  5ist  Cong.,  ist  Sess.,  vii,  no.  989,  25-26. 

2  From  Statistical  Abstract  of  United  States  for  1899,  422.     The  total  disburse- 
ments differ  slightly  from  revised  figures  given  in  recent  reports  of  the  Commis- 
sioner of  Pensions, 




ments  for  pensions  for  first  and  subsequent  payments  from 
1877  to  1899  inclusive. 

Year  ending 
June  30. 

First  payments. 

Pensions  exclusive  of 
first  payments. 


1877   . 


3284  O77  12 






^o,^ou,  I5/.U4 

1870.  . 





»/",}»  /:>C>''-HJ 

12  468  JQI  2O 



1881.   .. 


?fi  A  cS  /»nS  T/I 




50,626,538.5  ^ 


2O  QO6  7  C  1  QA 





79  ^iS''    T  ?fi   fS 




fi    6           6 


37,     7,375.9 

/•          o 





•7/1  Sic  /  8fi  Sc 


c6  c68  8^  T  ?8 



21  AA2  1AQ  I  7 



78  721  866  O7 

66  806  71/1  7C 

1  06  4Q7>  890  IQ 

1801  .  . 

78  726  808  /i  T 


AC  T  IA  167  68 


I  A  I  086  O^l8  8/1 

1801.  . 

l&QA.  . 





1  1  ACI   1  11  OI 


1807.  . 






1  jy,y4y»7i7.o5 


Q  2A.T  QC7  7C 

I2Q  IO7  OOC  2O 

I  78  7C  C  OC2  QC 



In  the  above  table,  attention  should  be  given  to  the  re- 
markable increase  in  the  amounts  of  first  payments  during 
the  years  following  the  passage  of  the  Arrears  Act.  A  very 
large  part  of  such  first  payments  consisted  of  arrears.  In 
the  year  1883,  the  first  payments  amounted  to  about  half  of 
the  total  disbursements.  The  abnormal  expenditure  in 
1880  for  pensions,  exclusive  of  first  payments,  was  probably 
due  to  the  payment  of  arrears  to  those  persons  already  on 
the  rolls.  It  should  also  be  remembered  that  the  total  pen- 
sion expenditures  had  been  slowly  decreasing  for  several 
years  prior  to  the  passage  of  the  Arrears  Act.  After  1879, 

323]  ARREARS  ACJ    TO  1890  IC>5 

the  increase  was  very  marked.  Other  legislation  is  respon- 
sible for  a  large  part  of  the  expenditure  in  first  payments 
after  1889. 

Between  1879  and  1890,  a  number  of  laws  were  enacted 
increasing  the  rate  of  pension  for  certain  specific  disabilities, 
providing  for  the  removal  of  the  charge  of  desertion  in  many 
classes  of  cases,  and  also  providing  for  special  examinations, 
medical  examinations  and  other  details  in  the  administration 
of  the  pension  laws.  The  Mexican  War  pension  act  of  1887 
has  been  previously  discussed. 

The  increase  act  of  March  19,  1886,  provided  that  the 
pensions  of  all  widows,  minor  children  and  dependent  rela- 
tives already  on  the  pension  rolls,  or  who  might  thereafter 
be  placed  upon  the  pension  rolls,  should  be  increased  from 
eight  to  twelve  dollars  per  month.1  Nothing  in  the  act  was 
to  affect  the  existing  allowance  of  two  dollars  per  month  for 
each  child  under  the  age  of  sixteen  years.  It  was  further 
provided  that  the  law  should  apply  only  to  widows  who 
were  married  to  the  deceased  soldier  or  sailor  prior  to  its 
passage,  and  to  those  who  might  thereafter  marry  prior  to,  or 
during  the  service  of  the  soldier  or  sailor.  Claim  agents 
were  not  to  be  recognized  in  the  adjudication  of  claims 
under  the  act.  This  increase  of  forty-eight  dollars  a  year 
affected  some  95,000  cases  on  the  rolls,  besides  claims 
allowed  after  the  passage  of  the  act. 

In  a  pension  appropriation  act  of  June  7,  1888,  the  follow- 
ing provision  was  included  :  "  That  all  pensions  which  have 
been,  or  which  may  hereafter  be,  granted  under  the  general 
laws  regulating  pensions  to  widows  in  consequence  of  death 
occurring  from  a  cause  which  originated  in  the  service  since 
the  fourth  day  of  March,  eighteen  hundred  and  sixty-one, 
shall  commence  from  the  date  of  death  of  the  husband."2 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xxiy,  5.  *  Ibid.,  xxv,  173. 


This  was  a  repeal  of  the  limitation  on  the  operation  of  the 
Arrears  Act  in  so  far  as  widows  were  concerned,  making 
that  act  apply  to  them  indefinitely.  It  involved  large  pay- 
ments of  arrears  in  cases  already  on  the  rolls,  as  well  as  in 
cases  thereafter  taken  up. 

The  thoroughly  harmful  character  of  this  law  is  set  forth 
at  length  in  the  report  of  Commissioner  of  Pensions  Evans 
for  1 899.*  It  enables  widows,  who  have  failed  to  apply  for 
a  pension  during  widowhood  and  afterwards  re-married,  to 
receive  in  a  lump  sum  pension  for  the  full  period  of  widow- 
hood. This  amount  is  frequently  used  for  the  benefit  of  the 
husband,  who  has  had  no  connection  whatever  with  the 
United  States  military  service. 

In  his  report  for  1898,  Commissioner  Evans  illustrates  the 
operation  of  the  act  in  the  case  of  the  widow  of  a  captain  of 
volunteer  infantry.  The  Commissioner  says  : 

"In  1871  this  captain  died.  He  was  not  a  pensioner,  and  never 
had  filed  a  claim  for  pension.  His  widow  remained  a  widow  until 
March  30,  1887,  when  she  re-married,  having  filed  no  claim,  and, 
having  re-married,  had  no  pensionable  status.  In  1893,  five  years 
after  the  act  of  June  7,  1 888,  had  passed,  six  years  after  her  re-mar- 
riage, and  twenty-two  years  after  the  death  of  her  soldier  husband, 
she  files  her  claim  for  pension  as  a  widow,  from  the  date  of  the 
death  of  her  soldier  husband,  in  1871,  to  the  date  of  her  re-marriage 
in  1887 — sixteen  years — and  gets  nearly  $4,000,  practically  for  the 
use  and  benefit  of  the  second  husband." 

The  first  payments  of  several  thousand  dollars  afford  in- 
centive for  unscrupulous  persons  to  perpetrate  frauds  upon 
the  Government.  Commissioner  Evans  says  : 

"  The  records  of  national  cemeteries  have  been  brought  into  use 
for  the  purpose  of  determining  the  names  and  service  of  those 
buried  there.  Women  are  then  hunted  up  who  are  induced  to  exe- 
cute applications  for  pension  on  account  of  the  service  and  death 

1  See  pages  21  and  22  in  pamphlet  report. 

2 2 5 1  ARREARS  ACT  TO  1890  ! 07 

of  these  soldiers.  These  women  become  pliant  tools  in  the  hands 
of  the  operators.  A  prima  facie  case  is  made  out  by  means  of 
"stock  witnesses,"  and  the  originator  of  the  fraud  pockets  the 
amount  of  the  first  payment,  leaving  the  fraudulent  claimant  to  reap 
the  benefit  of  the  future  payments.  Great  difficulty  is  often  exper- 
ienced by  this  Bureau  in  disproving  a  marriage  or  marriage  relations 
alleged  to  have  occurred  thirty  or  forty  years  ago." 

This  law,  like  the  original  Arrears  Act,  puts  a  premium 
on  crime.  Under  the  existing  ex  parte  system  of  adjudica- 
tion, the  Government  has  no  adequate  means  of  detecting 
fraud.  The  way  is  open  for  perjury  and  forgery,  and  thou- 
sands of  dollars  are  put  within  reach  of  the  successful  crimi- 
nal. Occasionally  the  crime  is  detected,  and  the  Govern- 
ment is  shown  to  have  lost  large  sums  of  money.  But  in 
many  other  cases  fraud  goes  undetected,  and  the  Treasury 
is  looted. 



TO  1899. 

THE  passage  of  the  Arrears  Act,  instead  of  satisfying  the 
pension  attorneys  and  claimants,  resulted  in  a  demand  for 
further  legislation.  Adapting  to  his  purpose  a  phrase  from 
classical  English,  one  of  the  speakers  in  the  Congressional 
debates  remarked  that  "  this  appetite  for  pensions  doth  in- 
crease by  what  it  feeds  on."  The  voting  strength  of  the 
veterans  of  the  Civil  War  was  so  great  that  both  political 
parties  feared  to  oppose  pension  measures. 

President  Cleveland,  in  his  annual  message  of  1886,  said: 

"Every  patriotic  heart  responds  to  a  tender  consideration  for 
those  who,  having  served  their  country  long  and  well,  are  reduced 
to  destitution  and  dependence,  not  as  an  incident  of  their  service, 
but  with  advancing  age  or  through  sickness  or  misfortune.  We  are 
all  tempted  by  the  contemplation  of  such  a  condition  to  supply  relief, 
and  are  often  impatient  of  the  limitations  of  public  duty.  Yielding 
to  no  one  in  the  desire  to  indulge  this  feeling  of  consideration,  I 
cannot  rid  myself  of  the  conviction  that  if  these  ex-soldiers  are  to  be 
relieved,  they  and  their  cause  are  entitled  to  the  benefit  of  an  enact- 
ment under  which  relief  may  be  claimed  as  a  right,  and  that  such 
relief  should  be  granted  under  the  sanction  of  law,  not  in  evasion  of 
it ;  nor  should  such  worthy  objects  of  care,  all  equally  entitled,  be 
remitted  to  the  unequal  operation  of  sympathy,  or  the  tender  mercies 
of  social  and  political  influence  with  their  unjust  discriminations." 

This   declaration  was  taken  in  Congress  to  commit  the 
President  to  the  approval  of  a  limited  service  pension  bill 
i 08  [326 

Of  TKB 

327]  DEPENDENT  ACT  TO  1899 

for  the  veterans  of  the  Civil  War.  Accordingly,  the  so-called 
Dependent  Pension  Bill  was  passed,  which  granted  a  pension 
of  twelve  dollars  per  month  to  all  persons  who  had  served 
three  months  in  any  war  in  which  the  United  States  had 
been  engaged,  had  been  honorably  discharged,  and  were 
"  suffering  from  mental  or  physical  disability,  not  the  result 
of  their  own  vicious  habits  or  gross  carelessness,  which  "  in- 
capacitated "  them  for  the  performance  of  labor  in  such  a 
degree  as  to  render  them  unable  to  earn  a  support,"  such 
persons  being  dependent  upon  their  daily  labor  for  support. 
The  cost  of  this  measure  was  estimated  in  the  House  at  less 
than  $6,000,000  per  annum,  which  was  ridiculously  small 
and  based  more  on  surmise  than  anything  else. 

President  Cleveland  performed  a  public  service  by  vetoing 
the  bill.1  He  called  attention  to  the  fact  that  it  was  the  first 
law  passed  by  Congress  granting  pensions  to  the  soldiers  and 
sailors  of  the  Civil  War  upon  the  ground  of  service  and 
present  disability  alone,  and  in  the  absence  of  any  injuries 
received  in  the  military  service.  The  language  of  the  law 
he  thought  uncertain,  liable  to  conflicting  constructions,  and 
subject  to  unjust  and  mischievous  application.  The  law  failed 
to  provide  for  any  grading  of  the  pension,  and  President 
Cleveland  argued  that  a  lack,  in  any  degree,  of  ability  to  earn 
a  support  would  under  its  terms  entitle  an  applicant  to  re- 
ceive the  full  twelve  dollars  per  month.  This  would  make 
the  cost  of  the  act  very  many  times  what  had  been  estimated. 

The  veto  message  is  so  valuable  as  to  justify  an  extended 
quotation.  After  setting  forth  his  interpretation  of  the  meas- 
ure, the  President  said : 

"  Believing  this  to  be  the  proper  interpretation  of  the  bill,  I  can- 
not but  remember  that  the  soldiers  of  our  Civil  War,  in  their  pay  and 
bounty,  received  such  compensation  for  military  service  as  has  never 
been  received  by  soldiers  before,  since  mankind  first  went  to  war ; 

1  House  Ex.  Doc.,  49th  Cong.,  ad  Sess.,  no.  158. 



that  never  before,  on  behalf  of  any  soldiery,  have  so  many  and  such 
generous  laws  been  passed  to  relieve  against  the  incidents  of  war  ; 
that  statutes  have  been  passed  giving  them  a  preference  in  all  public 
employments  ;  that  the  really  needy  and  homeless  Union  soldiers  of 
the  Rebellion  have  been,  to  a  large  extent,  provided  for  at  soldiers' 
homes,  instituted  and  supported  by  the  Government,  where  they  are 
maintained  together,  free  from  the  sense  of  degradation  which  at- 
taches to  the  usual  support  of  charity  ;  and  that  never  before  in  the 
history  of  the  country  has  it  been  proposed  to  render  Government 
aid  towards  the  support  of  any  of  its  soldiers  based  alone  upon  a 
military  service  so  recent,  and  where  age  and  circumstances  ap- 
peared so  little  to  demand  such  aid. 

"  Hitherto  such  relief  has  been  granted  to  surviving  soldiers  few 
in  number,  venerable  in  age,  after  a  long  lapse  of  time  since  their 
military  service,  and  as  a  parting  benefaction  tendered  by  a  grateful 

"  I  cannot  believe  that  the  vast,  peaceful  army  of  Union  soldiers, 
who,  having  contentedly  resumed  their  places  in  the  ordinary  avoca- 
tions of  life,  cherish  as  sacred  the  memory  of  patriotic  service,  or  who, 
having  been  disabled  by  the  casualties  of  war,  justly  regard  the  pres- 
ent pension  roll,  on  which  appear  their  names,  as  a  roll  of  honor,  de- 
sire at  this  time  and  in  the  present  exigency,  to  be  confounded  with 
those  who,  through  such  a  bill  as  this,  are  willing  to  be  objects  of 
simple  charity  and  to  gain  a  place  upon  the  pension  roll  through 
alleged  dependence. 

"  Recent  personal  observation  and  experience  constrain  me  to  re- 
fer to  another  result  which  will  inevitably  follow  the  passage  of  this 
bill.  It  is  sad,  but  nevertheless  true,  that  already  in  the  matter  of 
procuring  pensions  there  exists  a  widespread  disregard  of  truth  and 
good  faith  stimulated  by  those  who  as  agents  undertake  to  establish 
claims  for  pensions,  heedlessly  entered  upon  by  the  expectant  bene- 
ficiary, and  encouraged  or  at  least  not  condemned  by  those  unwill- 
ing to  obstruct  a  neighbor's  plans. 

"  In  the  execution  of  this  proposed  law  under  any  interpretation, 
a  wide  field  of  inquiry  would  be  opened  for  the  establishment  of 
facts  largely  within  the  knowledge  of  the  claimants  alone  ;  and  there 
can  be  no  doubt  that  the  race  after  the  pensions  offered  by  this  bill, 

329]  DEPENDENT  ACT  TO  1899  1 1 1 

would  not  only  stimulate  weakness  and  pretended  incapacity  for 
labor,  but  put  a  further  premium  on  dishonesty  and  mendacity." 

Referring  to  the  underestimates  of  the  costs  of  the  bill, 
the  President  said : 

"  If  none  should  be  pensioned  under  this  bill  except  those  utterly 
unable  to  work,  I  am  satisfied  that  the  cost  stated  in  the  estimate  re- 
ferred to  would  be  many  times  multiplied,  and  with  a  constant  in- 
crease from  year  to  year ;  and,  if  those  partially  unable  to  earn  their 
support  should  be  admitted  to  the  privileges  of  this  bill,  the  proba- 
ble increase  of  expense  would  be  almost  appalling." 

In  reconciling  his  attitude  towards  the  proposed  law  with 
the  expression  of  opinion  previously  quoted  from  his  annual 
message,  he  continued : 

"I  do  not  think  that  the  objects,  the  conditions  and  the  limita- 
tions thus  suggested  are  contained  in  the  bill  under  consideration. 

"  I  adhere  to  the  sentiments  thus  heretofore  expressed.  But  the 
evil  threatened  by  this  bill  is  in  my  opinion  such,  that,  charged  with 
a  great  responsibility  in  behalf  of  the  people,  I  cannot  do  otherwise 
than  to  bring  to  the  consideration  of  this  measure  my  best  efforts  of 
thought  and  judgment,  and  preform  my  constitutional  duty  in 
relation  thereto,  regardless  of  all  consequences,  except  such  as 
appear  to  me  to  be  related  to  the  best  and  highest  interests  of  the 

This  courageous  veto  evoked  a  storm  of  criticism  from 
those  interested  in  the  passage  of  the  Dependent  Pension 
Bill.  Petitions  were  received  from  Grand  Army  of  the  Re- 
public posts,  other  organizations  and  citizens  all  over  the 
country  asking  for  the  passage  of  the  measure  over  the 
President's  veto.  In  Congress,  he  was  freely  charged  with 
inconsistency  by  speakers  from  both  parties.  Mr.  McKinley 
of  Ohio  was  among  those  who  spoke  in  favor  of  passing  the 
bill  over  the  veto.  The  Pension  Committee  of  the  House, 
where  the  measure  originated,  unanimously  recommended 

1 1 2  MILITAR  V  PENSION  LE  GISLA  TION  P  3  3  o 

such  action.1  On  the  vote,  the  yeas  numbered  175  and  the 
nays  125.  Thus  the  bill  failed,  two- thirds  not  supporting 

There  was  no  cessation  of  the  agitation  for  service  pen- 
sions, and  the  attitude  of  the  political  parties  on  this  ques- 
tion had  an  important  influence  upon  the  Presidential  cam- 
paign of  1888.  The  Republican  national  platform  adopted 
at  Chicago  on  June  21,  1888,  said: 

"The  gratitude  of  the  nation  to  the  defenders  of  the  Union  can 
not  be  measured  by  laws.  The  legislation  of  Congress  should  con- 
form to  the  pledge  made  by  a  loyal  people,  and  be  so  enlarged  and 
extended  as  to  provide  against  the  possibility  that  any  man  who  hon- 
orably wore  the  Federal  uniform  should  become  an  inmate  of  an 
almshouse  or  dependent  upon  private  charity.  In  the  presence  of 
an  overflowing  Treasury,  it  would  be  a  public  scandal  to  do  less  for 
those  whose  valorous  service  preserved  the  Government.  We  de- 
nounce the  hostile  spirit  shown  by  President  Cleveland  in  his  numer- 
ous vetoes  of  measures  for  pension  relief,  and  the  action  of  the 
Democratic  House  of  Representatives  in  refusing  even  a  considera- 
tion of  general  pension  legislation." 

At  the  twenty-second  national  encampment  of  the  Grand 
Army  of  the  Republic  at  Columbus,  Ohio,  September,  1888, 
the  following  resolutions  were  passed:2 

"  i.  Resolved,  That  it  is  the  sense  of  this  encampment  that  the 
time  has  come  when  the  soldiers  and  sailors  of  the  war  for  the  pre- 
servation of  the  Union  should  receive  the  substantial  and  merited 
recognition  of  the  Government  by  granting  them  service  pensions  in 
accordance  with  established  usage  ;  and,  further 

2.  Resolved,  That  this  encampment  favors  the  presentation  of  a 
bill  to  Congress  which  will  give  to  every  soldier,  sailor  and  marine 
who  served  in  the  army  or  navy  of  the  United  States  between 

1  Congressional  Record,  xviii,  Part  ii,  1970-1973.  For  debates  on  this  bill,  see 
the  heading  "  pensions"  in  the  index  to  this  volume. 

*  Journal  of  the  National  Encampment  of  G.  A.  £.,  1888,  190. 

3  3 1  ]  DEPENDENT  A  CT  TO  1899  1 1 3 

April,  1 86 1,  and  July,  1865,  f°r  tne  period  of  sixty  days  or  more, 
a  service  pension  of  eight  dollars  per  month,  and  to  all  who  served 
a  period  exceeding  eight  hundred  days,  an  additional  amount  of 
one  cent  per  day  for  each  day's  service  exceeding  that  period." 

In  the  fall  campaign  of  1888,  the  pension  question  was 
very  influential  in  determining  the  result  in  the  doubtful 
State  of  Indiana,  and  consequently  in  the  contest  for  the 
Presidency.  The  Republican  candidate  for  Governor  of  In- 
diana was  General  A.  P.  Hovey,  President  of  the  Service 
Pension  Association  of  the  United  States.  He  was  elected, 
and  the  State  was  carried  for  Harrison. 

The  new  Republican  administration  was  soon  called  upon 
to  redeem  its  pledges  to  the  ex-soldiers.  On  February  7, 
1890,  Mr.  McKinley  of  Ohio  presented  to  the  House  of 
Representatives  an  appeal  of  A.  P.  Hovey,  president  of  the 
Service  Pension  Association  of  the  United  States,  and  the 
resolutions  of  the  Grand  Army  posts  of  forty  States  and  four 
Territories,  for  the  passage  of  a  service  pension  bill,  as  re- 
commended by  the  Grand  Army  of  the  Republic  at  Columbus 
in  1888  and  at  Milwaukee  in  1889.*  Several  bills  were  in- 
troduced with  the  object  of  gratifying  the  demand  for  pen- 
sions. The  Republican  leaders  wished  to  satisfy  the  ex- 
soldiers  without  going  to  the  extreme  of  general  service 
pension  legislation  to  which  the  party  was  really  committed. 
Democrats  charged  the  Republicans  with  breach  of  faith,  and 
also  taunted  them  with  their  refusal  to  remove  the  limitation 
on  arrears  as  promised  in  the  platform  of  1884.  The  debates 
were  conducted  very  largely  with  reference  to  their  effect  on 
the  soldier  vote.  Each  party  attempted  to  pose  as  the 
special  friend  of  the  soldier. 

Both  the  House  of  Representatives  and  the  Senate  passed 
bills,  that  of  the  Senate  resembling  the  Dependent  Pension 

1  Congressional  Record,  5istCong.,  1st  Sess.,  1061-1066. 

1 1 4  Ml  LI  TAR  Y  PENSION  LE  GISLA  TION  [332 

Bill  which  had  been  vetoed  by  President  Cleveland.1  Con- 
ference committees  from'  the  Houses  finally  agreed  upon  a 
measure,  more  nearly  resembling  the  Senate  bill,  which  was 
passed  and  received  the  approval  of  President  Harrison  on 
June  27,  1 890.*  Like  the  former  measure  which  failed,  this 
has  been  known  as  the  Dependent  Pension  Law.  The  cost 
of  the  law,  as  it  passed,  was  estimated  in  the  House  at  not 
to  exceed  $35,000,000  per  annum,  and,  in  the  Senate,  at  not 
to  exceed  $41,000,000  per  annum.  Senator  Gorman,  who 
opposed  the  bill,  estimated  that  its  annual  cost  would  be 
from  $56,000,000  to  $79,000,000. 

The  first  section  of  the  act  of  June  27,  1890,  is  not  con- 
nected with  the  principal  object  of  the  law.  It  provides  that 
in  the  presentation  of  the  pension  claims  of  dependent  par- 
ents, where  the  deceased  soldier  has  left  no  widow  or  minor 
children,  it  shall  be  necessary  only  to  show  by  competent 
and  sufficient  evidence  that  the  parent  or  parents  are  with- 
out other  present  means  of  support  than  their  own  manual 
labor  or  the  contribution  of  others  not  legally  bound  for 
their  support. 

Section  2  provides : 

"  That  all  persons  who  served  ninety  days  or  more  in  the  military 
or  naval  service  of  the  United  States  during  the  late  war  of  the  re- 
bellion and  who  have  been  honorably  discharged  therefrom,  and  who 
are  now  or  who  may  hereafter  be  suffering  from  a  mental  or  physical 
disability  of  a  permanent  character,  not  the  result  of  their  own  vicious 
habits,  which  incapacitates  them  from  the  performance  of  manual 
labor  in  such  a  degree  as  to  render  them  unable  to  earn  a  support, 
shall,  upon  making  due  proof  of  the  fact  according  to  such  rules  and 
regulations  as  the  Secretary  of  the  Interior  may  provide,  be  placed 
upon  the  list  of  invalid  pensioners  of  the  United  States,  and  be  en- 
titled to  receive  a  pension  not  exceeding  twelve  dollars  per  month,  and 
not  less  than  six  dollars  per  month,  proportioned  to  the  degree  of 

1  House  Bill,  8297,  and  Senate  BUI,  389.  •  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large. 

333]  DEPENDENT  ACT  TO  1899  n$ 

inability  to  earn  a  support ;  and  such  pension  shall  commence  from 
the  date  of  the  filing  of  the  application  in  the  Pension  Office  after 
the  passage  of  this  act,  upon  proof  that  the  disability  then  existed, 
and  shall  continue  during  the  existence  of  the  same." 

Persons  pensioned  under  the  general  laws  are  permitted  to 
apply  under  this  act,  and  pensioners  under  this  act  may  apply 
under  the  general  laws.  But  no  person  may  receive  more 
than  one  pension  for  the  same  period. 

Widows  of  those  who  served  ninety  days  during  the  Civil 
War  and  were  honorably  discharged,  are,  under  the  act  of 
1890,  granted  pensions  at  the  rate  of  eight  dollars  per 
month  without  proving  the  soldier's  death  to  be  the  result  of 
his  army  service.  As  under  the  general  law,  an  additional 
allowance  of  two  dollars  per  month  is  made  for  each  child 
of  the  deceased  soldier  under  the  age  of  sixteen  years.  The 
widow,  to  be  pensioned,  must  have  married  the  soldier  prior 
to  the  passage  of  the  act  and  must  be  dependent  upon  her 
daily  labor  for  support.  She  loses  the  pension  if  she  re- 
marries. In  case  of  her  death  or  remarriage,  the  pension  is 
paid  to  any  surviving  children  of  the  soldier  until  they  reach 
the  age  of  sixteen.  When  a  minor  child  is  insane,  idiotic  or 
otherwise  permanently  helpless,  the  pension  continues  dur- 
ing life  or  during  the  period  of  disability.  Attorney's  fees 
under  the  law  are  limited  to  ten  dollars. 

This  act  of  June  27,  1890,  is  the  most  important  pension 
law  ever  enacted.  Up  to  June  30,  1899,  it  had  cost  the 
country  about  $500,000,000,  and  over  sixty  million  dollars 
is  being  paid  out  annually.  It  is  a  limited  service  pension 
bill.  In  the  case  of  soldiers,  the  requirement  is  three 
months'  service  and  a  certain  degree  of  permanent  disability, 
not  the  result  of  vicious  habits.  Widows'  pensions  are  based 
upon  the  above  length  of  service  by  their  husbands  and  their 
own  dependence  upon  daily  labor  for  support.  Thus,  we 
have,  in  fact,  two  independent  systems  of  pension  legislation, 

1 1 6  MI  LI  TAR  Y  PENSION  LE  GISLA  TION  [334 

that  under  the  general  invalid  pension  law  and  that  under 
the  act  of  1890.*  Under  the  former,  333,192  invalids  and 
107,149  widows  are  pensioned;  under  the  latter,  420,912  in- 
valids and  130,266  widows.  It  seems  surprising  that  under 
this  one  act  110,000  more  persons  should  be  pensioned  than 
under  all  other  laws  taken  together. 

The  rates  allowed  by  the  general  law  are  higher  than 
those  allowed  by  the  act  of  1890.  As  a  consequence,  it  has 
been  the  general  practice  of  applicants  to  file  two  claims, 
one  under  each  system  of  law.  The  pension  under  the  act 
of  1890  is  more  easily  obtained,  but  surrendered  if  sufficient 
proof  can  be  brought  forward  to  secure  the  higher  rate  al- 
lowed by  the  general  law.  The  latter  requires  proof  that 
disability  or  death  resulted  directly  from  causes  incurred  in 
the  military  service. 

In  the  execution  of  the  act  of  1890,  there  has  never  been 
any  inquiry  into  the  capacity  of  the  claimant  to  earn  a  sup- 
\  port.  The  rich  have  been  pensioned  alike  with  the  poor. 
All  that  has  been  required  of  the  claimant  is  proof  that  he 
served  ninety  days  in  the  Union  army,  and  adequate  medical 
evidence  that  he  has  a  physical  or  mental  disability  that  dis- 
qualifies him  in  whole  or  in  part  for  earning  a  support  by 
manual  labor.  No  matter  what  may  be  the  cause  of  the  dis- 
ability, provided  that  it  is  not  the  result  of  the  claimant's 
vicious  habits.  Let  us  illustrate.  Suppose  a  business  man, 
lawyer  or  physician  to  suffer  an  injury  in  a  railroad  accident, 
necessitating  the  amputation  of  a  foot.  If  he  served  ninety 
days  in  the  Civil  War,  he  will  be  allowed  upon  application  a 
pension  of  twelve  dollars  per  month  for  life.  In  case  of  an 
injury  of  less  severity,  the  rate  might  be  anywhere  from  six 
to  twelve  dollars.  Is  a  law  which  grants  pensions  under 

1For  comparison  of  the  two  systems,  see  Report  of  the  Commissioner  of  Pen- 
sions for  1899,  33. 

335]  DEPENDENT  A  CT  TO  i8gg  \  \  y 

such  circumstances  sound  in  principle?     The  individual  in 
the  illustration  may  be  enjoying  a  large  income,  his  earning 
ability  may  be  but  temporarily  impaired,  his  injury  has  no 
connection  whatever  with  military  service,  and,  in  fact,  he 
may  never  have  seen   active  service.     Nevertheless,  he   is 
pensioned  for  life  at  the  expense  of  the  taxpayers  of  the 
country.     And  this  is  not  an  extreme  case.     Our  supposed 
claimant  has  a  clear  legal  title  to  a  pension,  which  he  can 
prove  without  departing  in  the  least  from  strict  honesty  of 
statement.     But,  in  that  large  class  of  cases  where  disability 
is  not  physically  apparent,  there  is  abundant  reason  to  be-  ^ 
lieve  that  large  numbers  of  persons,  seemingly  in  normal     < 
health,  have  discovered  in  themselves  ailments  which  would    f 
have  passed  unnoticed  but  for  the  pension  laws. 

The  act  of  1890  seems  to  the  writer  a  bad  law.  It  is  loose 
in  expression,  unsound  in  principle,  and  often  absurd  in  ap- 
plication. It  lays  an  extravagant  and  unjust  burden  upon 
taxpayers  to  insure  a  privileged  class  against  serious  acci- 
dent or  disability.  It  stimulates  dishonesty  and  dependence, 
fails  to  discriminate  between  the  deserving  and  the  undeserv- 
ing, and  prevents  the  pension  list  from  being,  as  it  should  be, 
a  roll  of  honor.  This  act  was  passed  at  a  time  when  there 
was  a  large  annual  surplus  in  the  Treasury.  It  was  argued 
that  the  payment  of  more  pensions  to  ex- soldiers  would  be 
a  proper  use  of  this  surplus.  The  additional  expenditure 
involved  in  the  execution  of  this  law  has,  however,  come  to 
be  one  of  the  causes  of  the  deficit  of  recent  years.  Our  ex- 
travagant pension  expenditures  are  beginning  to  attract  pub- 
lic attention  and  to  arouse  protest.  The  cost  of  the  law  of 
1890  is  shown  in  the  following  table : T 

1  Tablet  are  compiled  from  Reports  of  the  Commissioner  of  Pensions. 

COST  OF  ACT  OF  JUNE  27,  1890 




Army  Pensions. 

Navy  Pensions. 



Widows  and 


Widows  and 










375.590,052.23|  102,825,698.34 




Since  the  passage  of  the  act  of  1890,  there  has  been  an 
almost  constant  decrease  in  the  number  of  claims  allowed 
under  the  general  law.  A  very  large  proportion  of  all  claims 
now  admitted  comes  under  the  law  of  1890.  This  is  shown 
in  the  following  table  : 


Year  ending 
June  30. 

Old  Wars  and 
Army  Nurses.' 

General  Law. 

Act  of 
June  27,  1890. 

Total  Original 
Claims  Allowed. 

i  Son 

i  c84 

6c  OCT. 







I  OI4 








3,80  c 




T  QQ  c  

j  701 


















I,  OI7* 




1  Includes  Mexican  War  and  War  of  1812  pensions,  and,  since  1893,  Indian  War  pension*,  and 
pensions  to  army  nurses. 

9  Includes  303  pensions  granted  on  account  of  the  War  with  Spain. 

337J  DEPENDENT  ACT  TO  1899  x  19 

By  the  act  of  August  5,  1892,  all  women  employed  by  the 
Surgeon-General  of  the  army  as  nurses  during  the  Civil  War 
for  a  period  of  six  months  or  more,  and  who  were  honorably 
relieved  from  such  service,  are  granted  a  pension  of  twelve 
dollars  a  month,  provided  they  are  unable  to  earn  a  support.1 
At  present  there  are  about  650  of  these  nurses  on  the  roll. 

The  Supreme  Court  of  the  United  States  has  held  that  no 
pensioner  can  claim  a  vested  legal  right  to  his  pension,  but 
that  pensions  are  the  bounties  of  the  Government,  which 
Congress  has  the  right  to  give  or  recall,  increase  or  dimin- 
ish, at  its  discretion.2  The  Pension  Bureau  has  also  exer- 
cised the  power  of  revising  or  reconsidering  its  decisions  for 
the  correction  of  error  or  illegality.  In  the  act  of  December 
21,  1893,  Congress  modified  the  prevailing  practice  by  de- 
claring a  pension  a  vested  right  in  the  grantee  to  the  extent 
that  payment  thereof  may  not  be  suspended  or  withheld 
without  notice  to  the  pensioner  of  not  less  than  thirty  days. 
Such  notice  must  contain  a  full  statement  of  any  charges  or 
allegations  upon  which  it  is  sought  to  modify  or  change  the 
decision  granting  the  pension,  and  the  Commissioner  must 
act  only  after  hearing  all  the  evidence  presented.  This  pro- 
vision has  facilitated  frauds  upon  the  Pension  Bureau  in  some 
cases  where  the  fraud  was  discovered  just  after  a  certificate 
carrying  a  large  amount  of  arrears  had  been  issued.  Com- 
missioner Lochren  cites,  in  his  report  for  1894,  a  case  where 
the  Government  lost  $2,200  in  this  manner,  and  says  that 
numerous  cases  of  the  same  kind  occur  in  the  practice  of 
the  Bureau. 

A  proviso  in  the  pension  appropriation  act  of  March  2, 
1895,  increased  to  six  dollars  per  month  all  invalid  pensions 
below  that  rate,  and  provided  that  thereafter,  whenever  any 
applicant  for  pension  would  be  entitled,  under  the  then  ex- 
isting rates,  to  less  than  six  dollars  for  one  or  for  several 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xxvii,  348.  *  107  U.  S.  Reports,  64,  68. 


combined  disabilities,  he  should  receive  not  less  than  six 
dollars  per  month.1  This  is  now  the  minimum  invalid  rate 

There  was  also  included  in  the  pension  appropriation  act 
of  March  6,  1896,  the  following  noteworthy  clause:2 

"That  whenever  a  claim  for  pension  under  the  act  of  June  27, 
1890,  has  been,  or  shall  hereafter  be,  rejected,  suspended  or  dis- 
missed, and  a  new  application  shall  have  been,  or  shall  hereafter  be, 
filed,  and  a  pension  has  been,  or  shall  hereafter  be,  allowed  in  such 
claim,  such  pension  shall  date  from  the  time  of  filing  the  first  ap- 
plication, provided  the  evidence  in  the  case  shall  show  a  pensionable 
disability  to  have  existed,  or  to  exist,  at  the  time  of  filing  such  first 
application,  anything  in  any  law  or  ruling  of  the  Department  to  the 
contrary  notwithstanding." 

This  provision  opened  the  way  for  applications  for  arrears 
on  the  part  of  those  whose  original  claims  had  failed.  Ap- 
plications were  renewed  and  fortified  with  additional  evi- 
dence in  the  hope  of  securing  a  large  first  payment.  It  is 
gratifying  to  note  that  there  has  been  a  large  percentage  of 
rejections  of  claims  under  this  clause. 

The  last  important  general  law  which  we  shall  note  is  that 
of  March  3,  1899.3  This  provides  that  a  pensioner  who  has 
deserted  his  wife,  or  children  under  sixteen  years  of  age,  for 
a  period  of  over  six  months,  or  who  is  an  inmate  of  a  Sol- 
diers' Home,  must  give  up  one-half  of  his  pension  to  his 
wife,  she  being  a  woman  of  good  moral  character  and  in 
necessitous  circumstances,  or  to  the  guardian  of  his  child  or 
children.  In  this  way  the  Pension  Bureau  is  enabled  to 
afford  relief  in  many  worthy  cases  upon  appeal  from  the 
wives  and  children  concerned. 

The  same  act  also  provides  that,  in  the  future,  no  pension 
shall  be  granted  to  a  widow  under  the  laws  of  the  United 

1  U.  S.  Statutes  at  Large,  xxviii,  704.         *  Ibid.,  xxix,  45.         *  Ibid.,  xxx,  1379. 

339]  DEPENDENT  ACT  TO  1899  121 

States  unless  the  marriage  of  the  widow  to  the  soldier  on  ac- 
count of  whose  service  the  pension  is  asked,  was  duly  and 
legally  contracted  prior  to  the  passage  of  the  act,  or  unless 
she  shall  have  lived  and  cohabited  with  the  soldier  continu- 
ously from  the  date  of  the  marriage  until  the  date  of  his 
death,  or  unless  the  marriage  shall  take  place  hereafter  and 
prior  to  or  during  the  military  service  of  the  soldier  on  ac- 
count of  whose  service  pension  is  claimed.  This  proviso 
does  not  apply  to  the  widows  of  soldiers  who  served  in  the 
War  with  Spain.  It  is  intended  to  stop  the  common  abuse 
found  in  the  marriage  of  young  women  to  aged  soldiers  for  ' 
the  sake  of  acquiring  a  pensionable  status. 

So  liberal  and  comprehensive  is  our  system  of  general 
pension  laws  that  no  additional  legislation  has  been  necessary 
on  account  of  the  war  with  Spain.  Soldiers  of  that  war  are 
entitled  to  pensions  for  disabilities  of  a  permanent  character, 
resulting  from  their  military  service,  at  the  same  rates  as  al- 
lowed soldiers  of  the  Civil  War.  Existing  legislation  like- 
wise provides  for  the  widows  and  dependent  relatives  of  those 
who  died  in  service  in  the  war  with  Spain  or  as  the  result 
of  injuries  received  or  disease  contracted  in  that  war.  Except 
as  to  dependent  parents,  the  act  of  June  27,  1890,  is  appli- 
cable only  to  the  soldiers  of  the  Civil  War.  Up  to  June  30, 
1899,  there  had  been  filed  in  the  Pension  Bureau  17,560 
claims  on  account  of  the  war  with  Spain,  303  of  which  had 
been  allowed.  The  filing  of  such  claims  is  proceeding 
rapidly,  and  the  number  received  from  some  regiments 
which  saw  no  active  service  is  surprisingly  large. 

Special  Pension  Legislation 

In  closing  this  account  of  general  pension  legislation,  it 
seems  desirable  to  call  attention  briefly  to  the  great  develop- 
ment of   special    pension    legislation    since  the   Civil  War.v 
Previous  to  that  war,  few  special  acts  were  passed,  but  since 




its  close  their  number  has  become  great,  as  is  shown  by  the 
following  table : x 

MARCH  4,  1899. 





Thirty-seventh  (1861-63)  .  .  . 
Thirty-eighth  (1863  60 


Forty-eighth  (1883-85)  
Forty-ninth  (1885  87)  


Thirty-ninth  (1865  67).    ... 

1  18 

Fiftieth  (1887  89)  

1  OI5 

Fortieth  (1867-69)  

1  j° 


Fifty-first  (1889  91)  


Forty-first  (1869  71)  



Fifty-second  (1891—93)  .... 


Forty-second  (  1871   73)  .... 



Forty-third  (1877  75) 


Plfty-  fourth  (1895-97)  


Forty-  fourth  (  1  875—77)  • 


Fifty-  fifth  (1897  99)  


Forty-fifth  (1877  79)  

2  -JQ 

Forty-sixth  (1870  8O 



6  7QI 

Forty-seventh  (1881-83)  



N\  These  special  acts  are  usually  passed  to  allow  claims  which 
have  been  rejected  by  the  Pension  Bureau,  often  because 
they  are  absolutely  without  merit.  Some  of  the  claims  are 
meritorious,  but  do  not  come  technically  within  the  provi- 
sions of  the  general  law.  It  is  the  practice  of  both  Houses 
of  Congress  to  set  aside  portions  of  certain  days  for  the  con- 
sideration of  pension  bills.  At  those  sessions,  special  laws 
are  put  through  the  form  of  passage  with  remarkable  speed, 
and  commonly  in  the  absence  of  a  quorum.  Very  few  mem- 
bers vote  or  give  any  attention  to  the  bills,  which  are  en- 
acted by  common  consent.  Occasionally,  some  member 
does  insist  upon  the  presence  of  a  quorum.  This  reckless 
method  of  doing  business,  originating  at  a  time  when  the 
surplus  in%ie  Treasury  seemed  capable  of  satisfying  every 
demand  for  pensions,  has  resulted  in  the  allowance  of  many 
unworthy  claims. 

1CompUed  from  Reports  of  the  Commissioner  of  Pensions  for  1898  and  1899. 

34  1  ]  DEPENDENT  ACT  TO  1899  123 

President  Cleveland  endeavored  to  put  a  stop  to  the  abuse 
of  special  acts  by  the  use  of  his  veto  power.1  In  his  first  v 
term,  he  vetoed  228  pension  bills.  Grant  was  the  only  other 
President  who  had  used  the  veto  for  this  purpose,  he  having 
vetoed  five  unimportant  pension  measures.  Among  the 
bills  which  Cleveland  vetoed  was  the  Dependent  Pension 
Bill,  which  we  have  already  discussed.  His  action  was  very 
severely  criticised  in  Congress  and  throughout  the  country, 
and  it  was  said  by  his  opponents  to  be  an  improper  use  of 
the  veto  power.  It  had  the  desirable  result  of  bringing  the 
special  act  abuse  prominently  before  the  people  and  thereby 
checking  the  recklessness  of  Congress.  The  President  ve- 
toed only  those  measures  which  he  considered  improper  after 
a  careful  examination  into  the  facts  had  been  made  by  the 
Pension  Bureau.  In  a  number  of  cases,  he  was  able  to  show 
that  Congress  had  been  imposed  upon  by  deserters,  by  those 
whose  injuries  had  not  been  received  in  the  line  of  duty,  and 
by  persons  whose  claims  were  tainted  with  fraud.  His  reso- 
lute stand  was  instrumental  in  bringing  about  more  careful 
methods  in  the  committees  of  Congress.  Claims  are  not  / 
now  considered  by  Congress  until  they  have  been  first  sub- 
mitted to  the  Bureau. 

Congress  is  not  the  proper  place  for  the  settlement  of 
private  pension  claims.  The  pressure  of  general  business  is 
too  great.  There  is  no  time  for  the  detailed  discussion  of 
such  matters  on  the  floor  of  either  House,  and  the  decision 
of  committees  must  necessarily  be  accepted  without  question 
in  order  that  business  may  be  done.  These  committees  are 
not  so  well  fitted  to  investigate  the  merit  of  the  claims  as  the 
Pension  Bureau.  It  would  be  an  improvement  upon  present 
methods  if  Congress  should  pass  special  bills  only  upon  re- 

an  excellent  discussion  of  Cleveland's  pension  vetoes,  see  Mason,   The 
Veto  Power,  87-93. 

1 24  MILITAR  Y  PENSION  LE  GISLA  TION  [  3  42 

commendation  from  the  Bureau.  Under  our  present  liberal 
system,  it  is  probable  that  there  are  but  few  meritorious 
claims  not  within  the  scope  of  the  laws.  The  Pension  Bu- 
reau can  not  be  accused  of  bias  against  claimants,  and  could 
do  more  than  is  now  done  to  place  proper  safeguards  upon 
the  Treasury. 


/.   The  Trend  of  Pension  Legislation 

IN  this  country,  pension  legislation  has  tended  constantly 
toward  increased  liberality.  Our  earliest  laws  were  disabil- 
ity provisions,  carefully  restricted  in  their  operation  and 
meager  in  their  allowances.  The  scope  of  these  laws  was 
soon  broadened,  provision  was  made  for  widows  and 
orphans,  and  rates  were  increased.  In  1818,  thirty-five 
years  after  the  termination  of  the  Revolutionary  War,  ser- 
vice pensions  were  granted  to  the  indigent  soldiers  of  that 
war,  despite  warnings  in  Congress  that  a  precedent  was 
being  created  which  posterity  would  regret.  We  have  read 
of  the  resulting  scandals  and  fraud.  Fourteen  years  later,  a 
surplus  in  the  Treasury,  due  to  a  high  tariff  on  imports, 
opened  the  way  for  a  further  grant  to  the  survivors  of  the 
Revolutionary  War.  The  act  of  1832,3  pure  service  pen- 
sion law,  was  passed.  Again  were  there  surprising  disclos- 
ures of  fraud.  The  precedent  for  service  pensions,  however, 
was  strengthened. 

The  intervention  of  the  Civil  War  troubles  prevented  the 
granting  of  service  pensions  to  the  survivors  of  the  War  of 
1812  at  as  early  a  date  as  would  otherwise  have  been  prob- 
able. But  in  1871,  precedent  was  appealed  to  and  a  service 
pension  bill  passed  for  their  benefit.  This  was  supplemented 
by  the  extremely  liberal  act  of  1878.  The  effects  of  these 
two  measures  have  been  presented  in  a  previous  chapter, 
but  both  effects  and  measures  were  overshadowed  by  Civil 
343J  I25 


War  legislation.  In  1887,  a  limited  service  pension  law  was 
passed  for  the  survivors  of  the  Mexican  War,  and,  in  1892,  a 
pure  service  pension  law  for  the  soldiers  of  sundry  Indian 

\At  the  beginning  of  the  Civil  War,  the  act  of  1862  was 
passed,  making  broader  provisions  for  invalids,  widows  and 
dependent  relatives  than  had  before  been  known  in  this 
country.  No  sooner  had  the  war  ended  than  Congress 
began  passing  more  and  more  liberal  provisions  for  invalids 
and  dependent  relatives,  and  establishing  higher  rates  for  the 
severer  disabilities.  Then  came  the  Arrears  Act  with  an 
outlay  of  hundreds  of  millions  of  dollars.  This  was  followed 
by  an  agitation  for  service  pensions.  But  to  pay  service 
pensions  without  limitation  to  the  vast  armies  of  volunteers 
who  were  enlisted  in  the  Civil  War  was  so  stupendous  an 
undertaking  that  Congress  dared  not  go  to  the  full  length  of 
the  proposals  urged  upon  its  members.  The  act  of  1890 
was  the  costly  compromise.  The  present  enterprises  of  the 
Government  have  of  late  afforded  full  use  for  all  the  funds  in 
the  Treasury,  but  if  it  shall  be  our  fortune  to  have  another 
period  of  Treasury  surplus,  we  may  expect  a  demand  for 
pure  service  pensions  for  all  survivors  of  the  Civil  War. 

2.   Our  Present  System  of  Pension  Laws 

The  pension  legislation  on  the  statute  books  with  refer- 
ence to  the  wars  prior  to  1861  is  now  of  slight  importance. 
There  is  great  need  of  a  thorough  revision  and  codification 
of  the  numerous  laws  passed  with  reference  to  service  sub- 
sequent to  March  4,  1861,  and  of  the  confused  mass  of  rul- 
ings and  decisions  thereunder.  These  laws  comprise  in  reality 
;  two  systems,  that  under  the  so-called  general  law  and  that 
under  the  act  of  June  27,  1890.  Under  the  former,  there  are 
fewer  pensioners,  but  this  great  body  of  legislation,  dealing 
with  disability  and  death  resulting  from  service,  applies  in- 


definitely  to  the  future  as  well  as  to  the  past.  It  includes 
within  its  scope  the  war  with  Spain,  the  war  in  the  Philip- 
pines and  such  other  wars  as  may  be  in  store  for  us. 
Among  its  beneficiaries  are  disabled  soldiers,  widows,  or- 
phan  children,  dependent  fathers  and  mothers,  and  orphan 
brothers  and  sisters.  For  the  severer  disabilities,  it  allows 
rates  of  pension  reaching  as  high  as  one  hundred  dollars  a 
month  for  the  loss  of  both  hands.  No  other  body  of  laws 
has  ever  provided  so  generously  for  those  disabled  in  military 
service  and  for  the  relatives  of  those  whose  death  was  due  to 
such  service. 

The  law  of  June  27,  1890,  which  pensions  the  soldiers  of 
the  Civil  War  and  their  widows  in  cases  where  disabilities 
and  death  are  not  due  to  military  service,  embraces  within 
its  scope  more  pensioners  than  are  enrolled  under  all  our 
other  laws  taken  together.  A  counterpart  of  this  act  of 
1890  cannot  be  found  in  the  legislation  of  any  nation,  and, 
indeed,  no  measure  nearly  resembling  it.  For  reasons 
already  discussed  at  length,  it  seems  to  the  writer  to  be  the 
most  vulnerable  point  in  our  pension  system. 

j.  Causes  and  Evils  of  Unwise  Legislation 

The  existence  of  a  large  surplus  in  the  Treasury  has  been, 
in  the  history  of  this  country,  a  frequent  temptation  to  ex- 
travagant  and  mischievous  pension  legislation.  This  was 
seen  in  the  case  of  the  Revolutionary  pension  act  of  1832, 
and  has  been  more  strikingly  illustrated  in  the  course  of 
legislation  since  the  Civil  War.  After  the  country  recovered 
from  the  abnormal  conditions  incident  to  that  great  conflict, 
a  high  protective  tariff  caused  the  accumulation  in  the 
Treasury  of  millions  of  money,  not  needed  to  meet  the  ordi- 
nary expenses  of  Government.  This  surplus  opened  the  way 
for  unnecessary  and  harmful  expenditures. 

One  of  the  most  obvious  ways  to  put  these  millions  in  cir- 


culation  among  the  people  was  to  pay  them  out  in  the  form 
of  military  pensions.  Proposals  to  make  such  payments 
were,  in  general,  well  received,  because  of  the  prevailing 
good-will  toward  the  citizen  soldiers  who  had  fought  for  the 
preservation  of  the  Union.  At  first,  steps  were  taken  to 
broaden  the  provisions  and  increase  the  benefits  of  the  laws 
granting  pensions  to  invalids,  widows  and  dependent  rela- 
tives. Then,  when  applications  and  expenditures  for  pen- 
sions began  to  decrease,  the  pension  attorneys  and  claim 
agents  sought  means  to  continue  their  business  at  the  ex- 
pense of  the  people  of  the  United  States.  Under  pretense 
of  a  demand  for  just  and  honorable  treatment  of  the  dis- 
abled soldiers,  they  urged  the  passage  of  the  Arrears  Act. 
Among  the  great  mass  of  the  soldiers,  there  was  little  real 
sentiment  for  such  a  measure.  This  being  the  case,  the 
claim  agents,  by  means  of  a  cunningly  conducted  agitation, 
proceeded  to  stir  up  the  needed  support.  They  flooded  the 
country  with  artfully  worded  appeals,  calculated  to  persuade 
the  honest  veteran  that  he  had  a  just  claim  and  to  arouse 
the  cupidity  of  his  less  honest  comrade.  The  movement 
was  successful,  and  we  have  seen  what  it  cost  the  country. 

Notwithstanding  the  passage  of  the  Arrears  Act,  the  in- 
come of  the  Government  continued  to  be  greatly  in  excess 
of  its  expenditures.  The  ex-soldiers,  organized  in  the 
Grand  Army  of  the  Republic,  began  systematic  efforts  to 
obtain  from  Congress  additional  pension  legislation.  In 
these  efforts,  they  were  largely  under  the  guidance  of  pen- 
sion attorneys  among  their  number.  The  organized  soldier 
vote  became  of  such  political  importance  as  to  command  the 
consideration  of  both  great  parties  and  to  become  one  of  the 
determining  factors  in  a  Presidential  campaign.  Demands 
were  made  that  the  surplus  should  be  used  in  paying  ser- 
vice pensions  on  account  of  the  Civil  War.  Both  parties  in 
Congress  feared  to  antagonize  the  Grand  Army,  but  also 


feared  to  enact  the  extreme  measures  which  were  proposed. 
The  act  of  June  27,  1890,  was,  in  a  sense,  a  compromise, 
though  we  can  scarcely  call  it  a  happy  one.  Through  their 
organization,  the  soldiers  secured  many  other  measures  of 
importance,  notably  the  increase  act  of  1886,  the  repeal  of 
the  limitation  in  the  Arrears  Act,  so  far  as  concerns  widows' 


pensions,  and  the  establishment  of  the  minimum  invalid  rate 
of  six  dollars  per  month. 

The  evils  resulting  from  our  pension  system  have  been 
many.  Unwise  laws  have  lowered  the  standards  of  morality 
and  patriotism  held  by  the  volunteer  soldiers.  Frauds  of  all 
sorts  have  been  perpetrated  in  the  preparation  of  evidence 
and  prosecution  of  claims.  In  a  great  number  of  cases, 
while  there  has  not  been  conscious  fraud,  claimants  have 
allowed  themselves  to  be  persuaded  of  the  existence  of  dis- 
abilities which  never  would  have  been  discovered  except  at 
the  suggestion  of  pension  attorneys.  Others,  in  independent 
or  affluent  circumstances,  have  been  willing  to  receive  pay- 
ments on  account  of  disabilities  in  no  way  connected  with 
military  service.  Youth  has  been  joined  in  wedlock  to  old 
age  for  the  sake  of  the  widow's  allowance.  In  the  eager 
rush  for  pensions,  the  finer  feelings  of  veterans  have  been 
blunted  and  the  attempt  has  been  made  to  secure  a  monetary 
equivalent  for  the  performance  of  patriotic  duty.  The  in- 
vestigator must,  at  times,  turn  from  the  record  in  disgust. 
A  former  soldier,  who  is  a  present  officer  of  the  Pension 
Bureau,  writes:1 

"  The  rapid  increase  in  the  number  of  widows'  pensions  tells  the 
story  of  the  passing  of  the  volunteer.  It  must  be  left  to  history  to 
record  his  virtues.  To  this  generation  he  has  been  so  persistent  in 
asserting  his  rights,  and  so  insistent  upon  recognition,  so  easily 
gulled  by  self-seeking  politicians,  and  misrepresented. by  such  a  host 
of  blatant  orators,  that  his  detractors  may  be  pardoned  for  regarding 
him  as  a  greedy  cormorant." 

1G.  C.  Kniffin,  The  Independent,  November  10,  1898,  1333. 

1 3  o  MILITAR  Y  PENSION  LE  CIS  LA  TION  [348 

Much  evidence  of  the  financial  evils  of  our  pension  system 
has  been  presented  in  preceding  chapters.  Unjust  burdens 
-/have  been  placed  upon  the  taxpayers  of  the  country  to  carry 
\  into  effect  the  lavish  grants  made  by  Congress.  With  the 
assumption  by  the  government  of  the  United  States  of  new 
responsibilities  in  this  and  other  continents,  the  weight  of 
national  taxation  is  being  felt  more  than  in  former  years. 
We  have  not  of  late  been  troubled  with  the  problem  of  the 
surplus.  Pension  expenditures  are  becoming  a  matter  of 
public  concern.  The  prospect  of  an  enlarged  military  estab- 
lishment has  intensified  interest  in  the  question.  It  seems 
probable,  too,  that,  with  the  decrease  in  the  voting  strength 
of  the  Grand  Army,  proposals  of  pension  legislation  may  be 
examined  in  Congress  with  respect  less  to  party  advantage 
than  to  public  duty. 

^.    A  Proper  System  of  Laws 

Laws  granting  pensions  for  military  service,  without  re- 
gard to  any  proof  of  the  existence  of  disability  contracted  in 
that  service,  have  proved,  throughout  our  history,  extremely 
costly  and  liable  to  a  multitude  of  abuses.  Almost  invari- 
ably, the  framers  of  such  legislation  have  seriously  underesti- 
mated the  expenditure  involved  in  its  execution.  The  laws 
have  required  but  short  periods  of  service,  have  been  loosely 
drawn,  and  have  failed  to  place  ordinary  safegards  upon  the 
Treasury.  Where  the  service  pensions  have  been  granted 
long  after  the  close  of  the  wars  concerned  and  to  persons 
who  have  reached  old  age,  there  has  not  been  so  great  a 
cause  for  objections  as  to  measures  which  have  granted  al- 
lowances to  those  who  were  independent  and  actively  en- 
gaged in  the  affairs  of  life.  But  service  pension  laws,  as  the 
term  is  used  in  the  United  States,  seem,  in  any  case,  to  be 
unwise.  They  have  only  been  made  possible  through  a 
revenue  system  which,  during  long  periods  of  years,  has 


kept  a  large  surplus  in  the  hands  of  the  Government.  Euro- 
pean nations  have  provided  pensions  for  soldiers  who  have  , 
completed  many  years  of  faithful  service  in  the  regular  army, 
but  no  other  nation  has  had  service  laws  at  all  comparable  to 
those  enacted  on  behalf  of  the  volunteer  armies  of  the 
United  States. 

While  service  pension  laws  are  subject  to  grave  objec- 
tions, a  properly  guarded  invalid  pension  system  is  in  ac- 
cordance with  good  public  policy.  Most  civilized  nations 
have  recognized  this  fact  and  have  provided,  in  some  way, 
for  wounded  or  disabled  soldiers.  In  enlisting  volunteers  for 
our  wars,  it  has  been  usual  to  make  a  promise  of  invalid 
pension  provisions  for  the  benefit  of  the  troops  enlisted.  So 
long  as  war  continues  to  be  the  means  of  settling  disputes 
between  nations,  the  duty  of  providing  for  those  who  are 
disabled  in  military  service  will  be  enforced  upon  govern- 
ments by  public  opinion.  If,  as  in  the  case  of  the  United 
States,  the  government  is  able  to  provide  liberally  for  inva- 
lids, it  seems  but  right  that  it  should  do  so.  There  will  be 
few,  if  any,  who  will  oppose  the  claim  for  relief  made  by  the 
soldier  who  has  received  actual  disability  in  the  line  of  duty. 

Properly  restricted  pensions  to  widows,  orphans  and  de- 
pendent   relatives    seem   also   to    merit   general    approval. 
There  will  be  great  difference   of  opinion  as  to  what  is   a 
proper  restriction  in  the  case  of  widows'  pensions.     A  con- 
servative rule  would  allow  a  pension  to  a  widow  only  when  , 
marriage  took  place  prior  to  or  during  the  soldier's  term  of  / 
service,  and  when  the  soldier's  death  was  directly  due  to  in-  / 
juries  received  or  disease  contracted  in  the  performance  of/ 
his  military  duties.     Some  greater  degree  of  liberality  with 
regard  to  the  date  of  marriage  might,  however,  prove  expel 

All  propositions  for  pension  reform  made  under  present 
circumstances  must  hold  in  view  what  is  practically  attain- 

j  3  2  MILITAR  Y  PENSION-  LE  GISLA  TION  ["350 

able  rather  than  theoretical  perfection.  Radical  changes  in 
the  existing  system  would  be  attended  with  much  difficulty 
and  might  work  considerable  hardships.  Though  this  essay 
has  been  devoted  primarily  to  a  consideration  of  legislation, 
enough  has  been  said  to  show  that  administrative  reforms 
are  also  urgently  needed.  We  have  never  had  a  system  of 
adjudication  of  pension  claims  which  has  sufficiently  safe- 
guarded the  interests  of  the  Government.  In  this  direction, 
there  is  a  fruitful  field  of  investigation.  It  is  earnestly  to  be 
desired  that  public  interest  may  be  aroused  to  the  import- 
ance of  the  whole  pension  question,  and  that  a  knowledge  of 
the  experience  of  the  past  may  lead  to  a  betterment  of  leg- 
islation and  administration  in  the  future. 



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In  the  preparation  of  this  monograph,  the  principal  sources  of  information  have 
been  the  records  and  public  documents  of  the  various  departments  of  the  govern- 
ment of  the  United  States.  The  following  have  been  used :  Annals  of  Congress, 
Congressional  Debates,  Congressional  Globe,  Congressional  Record,  Senate  Jour- 
nal, House  Journal,  Senate  Reports  of  Committees,  House  Reports  of  Committees, 
House  Executive  Documents,  Message  and  Documents,  State  Papers,  Reports  of 
the  Commissioner  of  Pensions,  Reports  of  Cases  argued  and  adjudged  in  the  Su- 
preme Court  of  the  United  States,  United  States  Statutes  at  Large,  and  Statistical 
Abstract  of  the  United  States. 

The  writer  has  also  examined  a  large  number  of  newspaper  and  magazine  arti- 
cles, compilations  of  laws,  and  other  works  which  have  proved  of  but  little  value 
for  his  purpose.  In  addition  to  the  public  documents  mentioned  above,  the  fol- 
lowing authorities  have  been  found  useful  and  are  cited  in  the  footnotes : 

Acts  and  Laws  of  His  Majesty's  Colony  of  Rhode-Island  and  Providence-Planta- 
tions in  New- England,  in  America.  Newport,  1745. 

The  Acts  and  Resolves,  public  and  private,  of  the  Province  of  Massachusetts  Bay 
( 1 692-1 780) .  5  vols.  Boston,  1 869-86. 

American  State  Papers,  Documents,  Legislative  and  Executive.  Folio,  38  vols. 
Washington,  1832-61. 

Archives  of  Maryland,  edited  by  William  Hand  Browne.  Proceedings  of  the 
General  Assembly  (1637-92).  Baltimore,  1883-94. 

Benton,  Thomas  Hart,  Abridgment  of  the  Debates  of  Congress.  15  vols.  New 

Boutell,  Lewis  Henry,  The  Life  of  Roger  Sherman.    Chicago,  1896. 

'Bureau  of  Pensions,  its  Officers  and  their  Duties.  The  Manner  in  -which  the 
Work  of  Adjudicating  Claims  is  Performed.  Washington,  1893. 

Carson,  H.  L.,  The  Supreme  Court  of  the  United  States. 

The  Colonial  Laws  of  New  York  from  the  Year  1664  to  the  Revolution.  5  vols. 
Albany,  1894. 

The  Forum.    New  York,  1893. 

Hening,  William  Waller,  The  Statutes  at  Large,  being  a  Collection  of  all  the 
Laws  of  Virginia  from  the  First  Session  of  the  Legislature  in  the  Ytar  1619.  13 
vols.  New  York,  Philadelphia  and  Richmond,  1819-23. 

The  Independent.    New  York,  1898. 

Journals  of  the  American  Congress  from  1774  to  1788.  4  vols.  Washington, 



Journal  oj  the  7^wcnty- second  Annual  Session  of  the  National  Encampment, 
Grand  Army  of  the  Republic.  Minneapolis,  1888. 

Laws  of  the  Commonwealth  of  Pennsylvania.     4  vols.     Philadelphia,  1810. 

Laws  of  the  United  States  Governing  the  Granting  of  Army  and  Navy  Pensions, 
together  with  the  Regulations  Relating  thereto.  Bureau  of  Pensions.  Washington, 
September,  1896;  September,  1897;  May,  1899. 

McMaster,  John  Bach,  History  of  the  People  of  the  United  States  from  the  Revo- 
lution to  the  Civil  War.  4  vols.  New  York,  1883-95. 

Mason,  Edward  Campbell,  The  Veto  Power,  Its  Origin,  Development  and 
Function  in  the  Government  of  the  United  States  (1789-1889).  Boston,  1891. 

Niles*  Weekly  Register.    Baltimore,  1811-49. 

The  Papers  of  James  Madison,  edited  by  Henry  D.  Gilpin.  3  vols.  Mobile, 

Records  of  the  Colony  of  New  Plymouth  in  New  England.  1 1  volumes  in  9. 
Boston,  1855-61. 

Records  of  the  Colony  of  Rhode  Island  and  Providence  Plantations  in  New  Eng- 
land  (1636-1792),  edited  by  John  Russell  Bartlett.  10  vols.  Providence, 

Records  of  the  Governor  and  Company  of  the  Massachusetts  Bay  in  New  Eng- 
land. 5  vols.  in  six.  Boston,  1853-54. 

Thayer,  James  Bradley,  Cases  on  Constitutional  Law,  with  Notes.  2  vols. 
Cambridge,  1894-95. 

A  Treatise  on  the  Practice  of  the  Pension  Bureau.  Compiled  by  order  of  the 
Commissioner  of  Pensions.  Washington,  1898. 

WTells,  "William  Vincent,  The  Life  and  Public  Services  of  Samuel  Adams.  3 
vols.  Boston,  1865. 

The  Writings  of  George  Washington.  Collected  and  edited  by  Worthington 
Chauncey  Ford.  14  vols.  New  York  and  London,  1889-93. 

",•  -'    ,  '^ 


WILLIAM  HENRY  GLASSON  was  born  at  Troy,  N.  Y.,  July 
26,  1874.  He  graduated  from  the  Troy  High  School  in  June, 
1892,  and,  as  the  result  of  a  competitive  examination,  won  a 
New  York  State  scholarship  in  Cornell  University,  which  in- 
stitution he  entered  in  the  fall  of  1892.  On  the  basis  of  his 
record  for  the  first  two  years  of  his  course,  he  was  awarded 
a  University  Scholarship  during  the  junior  and  senior  years. 
In  the  junior  year,  he  was  elected  to  the  Phi  Beta  Kappa 
Society.  He  graduated  from  Cornell  University  in  1896 
with  the  degree  of  Bachelor  of  Philosophy,  receiving  special 
mention  in  history  and  political  science. 

Before  graduation,  he  was  appointed  Fellow  in  Political 
Economy  and  Finance  in  Cornell  University  for  the  ensuing 
year.  He  attended  courses  and  seminaries  under  Professors 
J.  W.  Jenks,  W.  F.  Willcox,  C.  H.  Hull  and  M.  C.  Tyler. 
For  the  year  1897-98,  he  was  chosen  Fellow  in  Economics  in 
the  University  of  Pennsylvania,  where  he  studied  under  the 
direction  of  Professors  H.  R.  Seager,  L.  S.  Rowe,  J.  B.  Mc- 
Master,  J.  F.  Johnson  and  E.  P.  Cheyney.  He  was  Univer- 
sity Fellow  in  Administration  in  Columbia  University  during 
1898-99,  and  attended  lectures  and  seminaries  under  Profes- 
sors F.  J.  Goodnow,  J.  W.  Burgess  and  E.  R.  A.  Seligman. 
In  the  following  year,  he  was  Instructor  in  History  and 
Political  Science  at  the  George  School,  George  School,  Pa. 
This  dissertation  is  his  first  published  research  work. 
355]  137 




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